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W. A. P. MARTIN, D.D., LL.D. 




Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1881, by 

In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington. 

All rights reserved. 








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The earliest of the following essays was written at your 
instance twenty years ago ; and you will recognize several of the 
others as having passed through your hands on their way to the 
A. 0. S., or to the magazines in which they made their first ap- 

You will, I trust, welcome them as old friends, and for their 
sake give a favorable reception to those which are now, for the 
first time, introduced to your attention. 

The contents of this volume, though somewhat miscellaneous, 
are yet connected by a certain unity ; falling naturally into three 
divisions, treating respectively of the education, philosophy, and 
letters of the Chinese in a word, of their intellectual life. 

I call them Hanlin* Papers, not merely because the first three 
discuss educational processes which culminate in the Hanlin 
Academy, but more especially because the Hanlin is confessedly 
the highest embodiment of Chinese intellectual life. 

No one of these papers throws any light on your favorite 
field of research,! and none of them pretends to be exhaustive 
of its special subject ; they are offered to you and the public 
only as a bundle of Beitrage a small contribution towards the 
better understanding of China and the Chinese. 

Yours truly, \\ . A. P. MARTIN. 
PEKING, March 24, 1880. 

* The title of the fir^t edition, printed in China. f Philology. 
























NEAK the foot of a bridge that spans the Imperial Canal a 
few rods to the north of the British Legation, the visitor to Pe- 
king may have noticed the entrance to a small yamen. Here 
are the headquarters of the Hanlin Academy, one of the pivots 
of the Empire, and the very centre of its literary activity. 

On entering the enclosure, nothing meets the eye of one who 
is unable to read the inscriptions that would awaken the faintest 
suspicion of the importance of the place. A succession of open 
courts with broken pavements, and covered with rubbish; five 
low, shed-like structures, one story in height, that have the ap- 
pearance of an empty barn ; these flanked by a double series of 
humbler buildings, quite inferior to the stables of a well-conduct- 
ed farmstead some of Jhe latter in ruins ; and dust and decay 
everywhere. Such is the aspect presented by the chief seat of 
an institution which is justly regarded as among the glories of 
the Empire. A glance, however, at the inscriptions on the walls 
some of them in Imperial autograph warns the visitor that 
he is not treading on common ground.* 

* This paper appeared originally in the North American Review, July, 1874. 
Since that date the buildings here described have undergone a few slight re- 
pairs, but are not otherwise changed. 



This impression is confirmed when, arriving at the last of the 
transverse buildings, it is found to be locked, and all efforts to 
obtain an entrance fruitless. Its yellow tiling is suggestive ; and 
the janitor, proof against persuasion, announces, with a mysteri- 
ous air, that this is a pavilion sacred to the use of the emperor. 
There, concealed from vulgar eyes, stands a throne, on which his 
Majesty sits in state whenever he deigns to honor the Academy 
with his presence. 

Sundry inscriptions in gilded characters record the dates and 
circumstances of these Imperial visits, which are by no means so 
frequent as to be commonplace occurrences. A native guide- 
book to the " lions " of the capital, devoting eighteen pages to 
the Hanlin Yuan, dwells with special emphasis on the imposing 
ceremonial connected with a visit of Kienlung the Magnificent 
in the first year of the cycle which occurred after the commence- 
ment of his reign. 

From this authority we learn that the rooms of the Academy, 
having fallen into a state of decay, were rebuilt by order of the 
Emperor, and rededicated, with solemn rites, to the service of 
letters. His Majesty appeared in person to do honor to the oc- 
casion, and conferred on the two presidents the favor of an en- 
tertainment in the Imperial pavilion. Of the members of the 
Academy not fewer than one hundred and sixty-five were pres- 
ent. " Among the proudest recollections of the Hall of Gems " 
(the Hanlin), says the chronicler, " for a thousand years there 
was no day like that." 

The Emperor further signalized the occasion by two conspic- 
uous gifts. 

The first was a present to the library of a complete set of the 
wonderful encyclopaedia called the Tu-shu-chi-ch'eng. Printed 
in the reign of Kanghi, on movable copper types, and compre- 
hending a choice selection of the most valuable works, it extends 
to six thousand volumes, and constitutes of itself a library of no 
contemptible magnitude. 


The other gift, less bulky, but more precious, was an original 
ode from the Imperial pencil. Written as an impromptu effu- 
sion in the presence of the assembled Academicians, it bears so 
many marks of premeditation that no one could have been im- 
posed on by the artifice of Imperial vanity. It is engraved after 
the original autograph on a pair of marble slabs, from which we 
have taken a copy. 

In their native dress these verses are worthy of their august 
author, who was a poet of no mean ability ; but in the process 
of translation they lose as much as a Chinaman does in exchang- 
ing his flowing silks for the parsimonious costume of the West. 
At the risk of producing a travesty instead of a translation, we 
venture to offer a prose version. 



On this auspicious morning the recipients of celestial favor, 
Rank after rank, unite in singing the hymn of rededication. 
Thus the birds renew their plumage, and the eagle, soaring heavenward, 

symbolizes the rise of great men. 
Those here who chant poems and expound the Book of Changes are all 

worthies of distinguished merit. 
Their light concentres on the embroidered throne, and my pen distils its 

flowery characters, 

While incense in spiral wreaths rises from the burning censer. 
Before me is the pure, bright, pearly Hall ; 

Compared with this, who vaunts the genii on the islands of the blest ? 
A hundred years of aesthetic culture culminate in the jubilee of this day. 
To maintain a state of prosperity, we must cherish fear, and rejoice with 


In your new poems, therefore, be slow to extol the vastness of the Empire ; 
Rather by faithful advice uphold the throno. 
I need not seek that ministers like Fu-Yuih shall be revealed to me in 

dreams ; 
For at this moment I am startled to find myself singing the song of Yau 

(in the midst of my ministers). 
In my heart I rejoice that ye hundreds of officers all know my mind, 


And will not fan my pride with lofty flattery. 

Happy am I to enter this garden of letters, 

In the soft radiance of Indian summer ; 

To consecrate the day to the honor of genius, 

And to gather around my table the gems of learning ; 

But I blush at my unworthiness to entertain the successors of Fang and Tu. 

Why should Ma and Tsieu be accounted solitary examples ? 

Here we have a new edition of the ancient Shih-chii (library of the Hans). 

We behold anew the glorious light of a literary constellation. 

But the shadow on the flowery tiles has reached the number eight ; 

Drink till you are drunk ; three times pass round the bowl. 

When morning sunlight fell on the pictured screen, 

We opened the Hanlin with a feast, 

The members assembling in official robes. 

We took a glance at the library enough to load five carts and fill four 


We visited in order the well of Lew and the pavilion of Ko. 
We watch the pencil trace the gemmy page, 
While the waters of Ying-chau (the Pierian Spring) rise to the brim ; and 

in flowery cups we dispense the fragrant tea. 
Anciently ministers were compared to boats which crossed rivers ; 
With you for my ministers I would dare to encounter the waves of the 


From this effusion of Imperial genius we turn again to the 
august body in whose honor it was written, and inquire, Where 
are the apartments in which those learned scribes labor on their 
elegant tasks? Where is the hall in which they assemble for 
the transaction of business? Where the library supplied by Im- 
perial munificence for the choicest scholars of the Empire ? These 
questions are soon answered, but not in a way to meet the expec- 
tations of the visitor. The composing-rooms are those ranges 
of low narrow chambers on either hand of the entrance, some 
of them bearing labels which indicate that it is there the Impe- 
rial will puts on its stately robes ; but they are empty, and nei- 
ther swept nor garnished. 

Those of the members who have special functions are employed 
within the precincts of the palace, while the large class known as 


probationers prosecute their studies in a separate college called 
the Shu-ch'ang-kwan. Common hall, or assembly-room, there is 
none. The society holds no business meetings. Its organization 
is despotic ; the work of the members being mapped out by the 
directory, which consists of the presidents and vice-presidents. 
In an out-of-the-way corner, you are shown a suite of small 
rooms, which serves as a vestry for these magnates, where they 
drink tea, change their robes, and post up their records. For 
this purpose they come together nine times a month, and remain 
in session about two hours. 

As for the other members, they convene only on feast-days as 
marked in the rubrics of the State, and then it is merely for the 
performance of religious rites or civil ceremonies. The ritual 
for both (or rather the calendar) is conspicuously posted on the 
pillars of the front court, suggesting that the sap and juice of 
the Academy have dried up, and that these husks of ceremony 
are the residuum. 

So far as this locality is concerned, this is true ; for though 
the Academy exists, as we shall see, in undiminished vigor, the 
work intended to be done here is transferred to other places; 
and but for occasions of ceremony these halls would be as little 
trodden as those of the academies of Nineveh or Babylon. Of 
the ceremonies here performed, the most serious is the worship 
of Confucius, before whose shrine the company of disciples ar- 
ranged in files, near or remote, according to their rank, kneel 
three times in the open court, and nine times bow their heads to 
the earth. A more modern sage, Han-wen-kung, whose chief 
merit was an eloquent denunciation of Buddhism, is revered as 
the champion of orthodoxy, and honored with one third this 
number of prostrations. 

Besides the temples to these lights of literature, there is an- 
other shrine in which incense is perpetually burning before the 
tablets of certain Tauist divinities, among them the god of the 
North Star. 


The juxtaposition of these altars illustrates the curious jumble 
of religious ideas which prevails even among the educated classes. 
If Confucianism, pure and simple, calm and philosophic, were to 
be found anywhere, where should we expect to meet with it if 
not in the halls of the Hanlin Yuan ? 

As to the library, it must have been at least respectable in the 
palmy days of Kienlung that Emperor having replenished it, 
as we have seen, by a gift of six thousand volumes. Copies of 
a still larger collection of works, the Sze-k'u-cKuen-shu, printed 
in the earlier part of the same reign, were deposited there, as 
also a manuscript copy of the immense collection known as 
Yung-lo-ta-tien. But in China, libraries are poorly preserved ; 
books have no proper binding, the leaves are loosely stitched, 
the paper flimsy and adapted to the taste of a variety of insects, 
while their official guardians often commit depredations under 
the influence of an appetite not altogether literary. 

Through these combined influences, the Hanlin library has 
dwindled almost to a vanishing-point. Two of the book-rooms 
being within the sacred enclosure of the Imperial pavilion, the 
writer was not permitted to see them. The greater part of the 
books have been transferred elsewhere ; and the condition of 
those that remain may be inferred from that of the only book- 
room that was accessible. Its furniture consisted of half a dozen 
cases, some locked, some open the latter empty ; the floor was 
strewn with fragments of paper, and the absence of footprints in 
the thick deposit of dust sufficiently indicated that the pathway 
to this fountain of knowledge is no longer frequented. 

But things in China are not to be estimated by ordinary rules. 
Here the decay of a building is no indication of the decadence 
of the institution which it represents. The public buildings of 
the Chinese are, for the most part, mean and contemptible in 
comparison with those of Western nations ; but it would not be 
less erroneous for us to judge their civilization by the state of 
their architecture than for them, as they are prone to do, to 


measure ours by the tape-line of our tailor. With them architect- 
ure is not a fine art ; public edifices of every class are construct- 
ed on a uniform model; and even in private dwellings there 
is no such thing as novelty or variety of design. The original 
idea of both is incapable of much development; the wooden 
frame and limited height giving them an air of meanness ; 
while the windowless wall, which caution or custom requires to 
be drawn around every considerable building, excludes it from 
the public view, and consequently diminishes, if it does not de- 
stroy, the desire for aesthetic effect. Materialistic as the people 
are in their habits of thought, their government, based on an- 
cient maxims, has sought to repress rather than encourage the 
tendency to luxury in this direction. The genius of China does 
not affect excellence in material arts. With more propriety than 
ancient Rome she might apply to herself the lines of the Roman 

" Excudent alii spirantia mollius sera 

. . . regere imperio populos . . . 

Hae tibi erunt artes ; pacisque imponere morem." 

For not only is the Chinese notoriously backward in all those 
accomplishments in which the Roman excelled, but, without be- 
ing warlike, he has equalled the Roman in the extent of his con- 
quests, and surpassed him in the permanence of his possessions. 
With him the art of government is the " great study ;" and all 
else science, literature, religion merely subsidiary. 

For six hundred years, with the exception of a brief interval, 
the Hanlin has had its home within the walls of Peking, wit- 
nessing from this position the rise of three Imperial dynasties 
and the overthrow of two. Under the Mongols it stood, not on 
its present site, but a little to the west of the present drum-tower. 
Kublai and his successors testified their sense of its importance 
by installing it in an old palace of the Kin Tartars. Eo-yang- 
ch'u, a discontented scholar of a later age, alluding to the con- 
trast presented by the quarters it then occupied, laments in verse 


" The splendid abode of the old Hanlin, 
The glittering palace of the Prince of Kin." 

The Ming emperors removed it to its present position, appro- 
priating for its use the site of an old granary. The Tsing emper- 
ors had a palace to bestow on the Mongolian lamas, but allowed 
the Hanlin to remain in its contracted quarters, erecting at the 
same time, in immediate contiguity, a palace for one of their 
princes. This is now occupied by the British Legation, whose 
lofty chimneys overlook the grounds of the Academy, and so 
menace the fung-skuy (good luck) of the entire literary corpora- 
tion. If this were the whole of its history, the Hanlin would 
still enjoy the distinction of being more than twice as ancient as 
any similar institution now extant in the Western world ; but 
this last period one of few vicissitudes covers no more than 
half its career. Its annals run back to twice six hundred years, 
and during that long period it has shared the fortunes and fol- 
lowed the footsteps of the several dynasties which have contend- 
ed for the mastery of the Empire. From its nature and consti- 
tution attached to the court, it has migrated with the court, now 
north, now south, until the capital became fixed in its present 
position. At the beginning of the' fifteenth century, the Acade- 
my was for a few years at Nanking, where Hungwu made his 
capital. During the period of the Crusades it accompanied the 
court of the Southern Sungs as they retired before the invading 
Tartars, and fixed at Hangchau the seat of their semi-empire. 
For two centuries previous it had shed its lustre on Pienliang, 
the capital of the Northern Sungs. 

During the five short dynasties (907-960) it disappears amidst 
the confusion of perpetual war, though even then each aspirant 
for " The Yellow " surrounded himself with some semblance of 
the Hanlin, as a circumstance essential to Imperial state ; but its 
earliest, brightest, and longest period of repose was the reign of 
the Tangs, from 627 to 904, or from the rise of Mahomet till 
the death of Alfred. For China this is not an ancient date; 


but it was scarcely possible that such a body, with such objects, 
should come into existence at any earlier epoch. Under the 
more ancient dynasties the range of literature was limited, and 
the style of composition rude. It is not till the long reign of 
the house of Han that the language obtains its full maturity ; 
but even then taste was little cultivated the writers of that day 
being, as the native critics sav, more studious of matter than of 

o' * ' 

manner. During the short-lived dynasties that followed the 
Han and Tsin, the struggle for power allowed no breathing-time 
for the revival of letters ; but when the Empire, so long drenched 
in blood, was at length united under the sway of the Tangs, the 
beginning of the new era of peace and prosperity was marked 
by an outburst of literary splendor. 

For twenty years Kaotsu, the founder, had been involved in 
sanguinary conflicts. In such circumstances valor was virtue, 
and military skill comprised all that was valued in learning. In 
the work of domestic conquest, his most efficient aid was his 
second son, Shemin. Destined to complete what his father had 
begun, but with a genius more comprehensive and a taste more 
refined, this young prince was to Kaotsu what Alexander was to 
Philip, or Frederick the Great to the rough Frederick William. 
Studying the poets and philosophers by the light of his camp- 
fires, he no sooner found himself in undisputed possession of the 
throne than he addressed himself to the promotion of learning. 
In this he was only reverting to the traditions of an empire 
which from the earliest times had always been a worshipper of 
letters. But Taitsung (the name by which he is called in histo- 
ry) did not confine himself to the beaten path of tradition ; he 
issued a decree that men of ability should be sought out and 
brought to court from their retired homes and secret hiding- 
places. His predecessors had done the same; but Taitsung 
formed them into a body under the name of Wen-hio-kuan, and 
installed them in a portion of his palace, where, the historian 
tells us, he was accustomed, in the intervals of business and late 



in the hours of the night, to converse with these learned doctors. 
The number of these eminent scholars was eighteen, in allusion 
possibly (though a Confucian would repudiate the idea) to the 
number of Arhans or disciples who composed the inner circle of 
the family of Buddha Buddhism being at that time in high re- 
pute. Among these the most prominent were Fang-yuenling 
and Tu-juhui, who were afterwards advanced to the rank of min- 
isters of State. We have already seen their names in the Ode 
of Kienlung, where they are alluded to as the typical ancestors 
of the literary brotherhood. This was the germ of the Hanlin 

Under previous reigns letters had been valued solely as an aid 
to politics, and scholarship as a proof of qualification for civil 
employment. But from this time letters began to assume the 
position of a final cause, and civil employment was made use of 
as an incentive to encourage their cultivation. Previously to this 
the single exercise of answering in writing a series of questions 
intended to gauge the erudition and test the acumen of the can- 
didate was all that was required in examinations for the civil 
service ; but from this epoch taste presided in the literary arena, 
and compositions, both in prose and verse, in which elegance of 
style is the chief aim became thenceforth a leading feature in 
the curriculum. That wonderful net which catches the big fish 
for the service of the Emperor, and allows the smaller ones to 
slip through, was during this dynasty so far perfected that in the 
lapse of a thousand years it has undergone no very important 
change. As might have been expected, the epoch of the Tangs 
became distinguished above all preceding dynasties as the age of 
poets. Litaipe whose brilliant genius was believed to be an in- 
carnation of the golden light of the planet Venus Tufu, Hanyu, 
and others shed lustre on its opening reigns. Their works have be- 
come the acknowledged model of poetic composition, from which 
no modern writer dares to depart ; and, under the collective title 
of the poetry of Tang, they have added to the Imperial crown 


an amaranthine wreath such as no other dynasty has ever worn. 
Litaipe was admitted to the Academy by Minghwang or Huen- 
tsung ; the Emperor, on that occasion, giving him a feast, and, as 
native authors say, condescending to stir the poet's soup with 
the hand that bore the sceptre. 

It is not a little remarkable that the art of printing made its 
appearance almost simultaneously with the formation of the 
Academy and the reorganization of the examination system. 
Originating in a common impulse, all three interacted on each 
other, and worked together as powerful agencies in carrying for- 
ward the common movement. The method of stamping char- 
acters on silk or paper had no doubt been discovered long be- 
fore ; but it was under this dynasty that it was first employed 
for the reproduction of books on a large scale. It was not, how- 
ever, so employed in the reign of Taitsung. That monarch, re- 
solving to found a library that should surpass in extent and mag- 
nificence anything that had been known in the past, was unable 
to imagine a more expeditious, or, at least, a more satisfactory, 
method of producing books than the slow process of transcrip- 
tion. For this purpose a host of pencils would be required ; 
and Taitsung, in the interest of his library, made a fresh levy of 
learned men who were elegant scribes as well as able scholars. 
To these, Huentsung, one of his successors, added another body 
of scholars, and, combining the three classes into one society, 
called it by the name of Hanlin, or the " Forest of Pencils " a 
designation that was now more appropriate than it would have 
been when the number of its members fell short of a score. 

When the printing-press was introduced as an auxiliary in the 
manufacture of books, it relieved the Imperial scribes of a por- 
tion of their labors, but it did not supersede them. Released 
from the drudgery of copying, they were free to devote their 
leisure to composition ; and in China in the eighth century, as 
in Europe in the fifteenth, the art of printing imparted a power- 
ful stimulus to the intellectual activity of the age. 


Kising, as we have seen, in the halcyon days of Taitsung, the 
Hanlin Yuan was not long in attaining its full development. In 
the reign of Huentsung it received the name by which it is now 
known, and through twelve centuries, from that day to this, it 
has undergone no essential modification, either in its objects, 
membership, or mode of operation ; if we except, perhaps, the 
changes required to adapt it to the duplicate official system of 
the present dynasty. Its constitution and functions, as laid 
down in the Ta-ts ' ing-hwui-tien, or Institutes of the Empire, are 
as follows : 

1. There shall be two presidents one Manchu and one Chi- 
nese. They shall superintend the composition of dynastic his- 
tories, charts, books, Imperial decrees, and literary matters in 

2. The vice-presidents shall be of two classes; namely, the 
readers, and the expositors to his Majesty the Emperor. In 
each class there shall be three Manchus and three Chinese. 

3. Besides these, the regular members shall consist of three 
classes namely, Siuchoan, Piensieu, and Kientao in all of which 
the number is not limited. These, together with the vice-presi- 
dents, shall be charged with the composition and compilation of 
books, and with daily attendance at stated times on the classic 
studies of his Majesty. 

4. There shall be a class of candidates on probation, termed 
Shuki shi, " lucky scholars," the number not fixed. These shall 
not be charged with any specific duty, but shall prosecute their 
studies in the schools attached to the Academy. They shall 
study both Manchu and Chinese. Their studies shall be direct- 
ed by two professors one Manchu and one Chinese assisted 
by other members below the grade of readers and expositors, 
who shall act as divisional tutors. At the expiration of three 
years they shall be tested as to their ability in poetical composi- 
tion, the Emperor in person deciding their grades, after which 
they shall be admitted to an audience ; those of the first three 


grades being received into full membership, and those of the 
fourth grade, which comprises the remainder, being assigned to 
posts in the civil service, or retained for another three years to 
study and be examined with the next class. 

5. There shall be two recorders one Manchu and one Chi- 
nese. These shall be charged with the sending and receiving of 

6. There shall be two librarians one Manchu and one Chi- 
nese. These shall be charged with the care of the books and 

7. There shall be four proof-readers two Manchus and two 
Chinese. These shall attend to the revision and collation of 
histories, memorials, and other literary compositions. 

8. There shall be forty-four clerks forty Manchus and four 
from the Chinese Banners. These shall be employed in copying 
and translation. 

9. The expositors at the classic table (of the Emperor) shall 
be sixteen in number eight Manchus and eight Chinese. The 
Manchus must be officers who have risen from the third rank or 
higher. The Chinese also must be of the third rank or higher, 
having risen from the Academy. These shall be appointed by 
the Emperor on the recommendation of the Academy. The 
classic feasts shall take place twice a year namely, in the second 
and the eighth month ; at which time one Manchu and one 
Chinese shall expound the Book of History, and one Manchu 
and one Chinese shall expound the other classics, to be selected 
from a list prepared by the Academy. The subject and sense 
of the passages to be treated on these occasions shall in all cases 
be arranged by consultation with the presidents of the Academy, 
and laid before the Emperor for his approval. When the Em- 
peror visits the " Palace of Literary Glory," these expositors, 
together with the other officers, shall perform their prostrations 
at the foot of the steps, after which their going in and out shall 
be according to the form prescribed in the Code of Rites. When 


they shall have finished their expositions, they shall respectfully 
listen to the discourses of the Emperor. 

10. The daily expositors shall be twenty -eight Manchus and 
twelve Chinese. They shall be above the grade of Kientao and 
below that of president, and may discharge this duty without 
resigning their original offices. 

11. Prayers and sacrificial addresses for several occasions 
shall be drawn up by the Hanlin and submitted to the Emperor 
for his approval. These occasions are the following : namely, at 
the Altar of Heaven ; the Ancestral Temple ; the Imperial Cem- 
eteries; the Altar of Agriculture; sacrifices to mountains, seas, 
and lakes, and to the ancient sage Confucius. 

12. The Hanlin shall respectfully prepare honorary titles for 
the dowager empresses : they shall also draw up patents of dig- 
nity for the chief concubines of the late emperor ; forms of in- 
vestiture for new empresses and the chief concubines of new 
emperors ; patents of nobility for princes, dukes, generals, and 
for feudal states ; together with inscriptions on State seals all 
of which shall first be submitted for the Imperial approbation. 

13. The Hanlin shall respectfully propose posthumous titles 
for deceased emperors, together with monumental inscriptions 
and sacrificial addresses for those who are accorded the honor 
of a posthumous title all of which shall be submitted to the 
Emperor for approval. 

14. The presidents of the Hanlin shall be exoffido vice-presi- 
dents of the Bureau of Contemporary History, in which the 
Hanlin of subordinate grades shall assist as compilers and com- 
posers, reverentially recording the sacred instructions (of the 

15. Prescribes the order of attendance for the Hanlin when 
the Emperor appears in public court. 

16. Prescribes the number and quality of those of the Hanlin 
who shall attend his Majesty during his sojourn at the Yuen- 
Ming-Yuen (Summer Palace). 


17. Provides that those members of the Hanlin whose duty 
it is to accompany his Majesty on his various journeys beyond 
the capital shall be recommended by the presidents of the Acad- 

18. Provides that when the Emperor sends a deputy to sacri- 
fice to Confucius, certain senior members of the Academy shall 
make offerings to the twelve chief disciples of the Sage. 

19. The Hanlin, in conjunction with the Board of Rites, 
shall copy out and publish the best specimens of the essays pro- 
duced in the provincial and metropolitan examinations. 

20. Prescribes the form to be used in reporting or recom- 
mending members for promotion, and provides that when an 
examination is held for the selection of Imperial censors, the 
Piensieu and Kientao, on recommendation, may be admitted as 

21. Regulates examinations for the admission of probationary 

22. Admits probationers, after three years of study, to an ex- 
amination for places in the Academy or official posts elsewhere. 

23. Provides for examinations of regular members in presence 
of the Emperor, at uncertain times, in order to prevent their re- 
lapse into idleness. 

24. Provides for the promotion of members who are em- 
ployed as instructors or probationers. 

Such is the official account of the Hanlin as at present con- 
stituted ; but what information does it convey ? After all we 
have done in the way of explanation in connection with a rather 
free translation, it still remains a confused mass of titles and 
ceremonies, utterly devoid of any principle of order ; and with- 
out the help of collateral information, much of it would be alto- 
gether unintelligible. Interrogate it as to the number of mem- 
bers, the qualifications required for membership, the duration of 
membership, the manner of obtaining their seats (a term which 
must be used metaphorically of an association in which all but 


a few are expected to stand), and it is silent as the Sphinx. 
Should one, with a view to satisfying curiosity on the first point, 
attempt to reckon up the number of classes or divisions, to say 
nothing of individuals, the number being in some cases purpose- 
ly indefinite, he would certainly fail of success. Some who are 
enumerated in those divisions are official employes of the society, 
but not members ; and yet there is nothing in the text to indi- 
cate the fact : e. g., the proof-readers are Hanlins, the copyists 
and translators are not ; the librarians are Hanlins, the recorders 
are not. We shall endeavor briefly to elucidate these several 

Unlike the academies of Europe, which are voluntary associa- 
tions for the advancement of learning under royal or imperial 
patronage, the Hanlin is a body of civil functionaries, a govern- 
ment organ, an integral part of the machinery of the State : its 
mainspring, as that of every other portion, is in the throne. Its 
members do not seek admission from love of learning, but for 
the distinction it confers, and especially as a passport to lucra- 
tive employment. They are consequently in a state of perpetual 
transition, spending from six to ten years in attendance at the 
Academy, and then going into the provinces as triennial exam- 
iners, as superintendents of education, or even in civil or military 
employments which have no special relation to letters. In all 
these situations they proudly retain the title of member of the 
Imperial Academy ; and, in their memorials to the throne, one 
may sometimes see it placed above that of provincial treasurer 
or judge. 

There are, moreover, several yamens in the capital that are 
manned almost exclusively from the members of the Hanlin. 
Of these the principal are the chan-shih-fu and the ch'i-cku-ch'u ; 
both of which are, in fact, nothing more than appendages of the 
Academy. The former, the name of which affords no hint of 
its functions, appears to bear some such relation to the heir- 
apparent as the Hanlin does to the Emperor. The beggarly 


building in which its official meetings are held may be seen on 
the banks of the canal opposite to the British Legation. It is, 
nevertheless, regarded as a highly aristocratic body, and gives 
employment to a score or so of Academicians. The other, 
which may be described as the Bureau of Daily Record, employs 
some twenty more of the Hanlins in the capacity of Boswells to 
the reigning Emperor, their duty being to preserve a minute 
record of all his words and actions. 

Among the Imperial censors, who form a distinct tribunal, a 
majority perhaps are taken from the ranks of the Hanlin, but 
they are not exclusively so ; while the higher ranks of the Han- 
lin, without being connected with the censorate, are ex officio 
counsellors to his Majesty. Of those whose names are on the 
rolls as active members of the Academy in regular attendance 
on its meetings, the number does not exceed three or four score; 
though on great occasions, such as the advent of an emperor, the 
ex-members who are within reach are called in and swell the 
number to twice or thrice that figure. Besides these are the 
probationers or candidates, to the number of a hundred or more, 
who pursue their studies for three years under the auspices of 
the Academy, and then stand examination for membership. If 
successful, they take their places with the rank and file of the 
Imperial scribes ; otherwise, they are assigned posts in the civil 
service, such as those of sub -prefect, district magistrate, etc., 
carrying with them in every position the distinction of having 
been connected, for however brief a time, with the Imperial 
Academy. Without counting those rejected candidates, whose 
claim to the title is more than doubtful, the actual and passed 
members probably do not fall short of five hundred. 

The qualifications for membership are two natural talent 
and rare acquisitions in all the departments of Chinese scholar- 
ship ; but of these we shall treat more at length hereafter. The 
new members are not admitted by vote of the association, nor 
appointed by the will of their Imperial master. The seats in 


this Olympus are put up to competition, and, as in the Hindoo 
mythology, the gifted aspirant, though without name or influ- 
ence, and in spite of opposition, may win the immortal amreet. 
None enter as the result of capricious favor, and no one is ex- 
cluded in consequence of unfounded prejudice. 

The Hanlin Yuan has not, therefore, like the Institute of 
France, a long list of illustrious names who acquire additional 
distinction from having been rejected or overlooked ; neither 
does it suffer from lampoons such as that which a disappointed 
poet fixed on his own tombstone at the expense of the French 

. " Ci-git Piron, qui ne f ut rien, 
Pas meme academicien." 

In the Chinese Academy the newly initiated has the proud con- 
sciousness that he owes everything to himself, and nothing to the 
complaisance of his associates or the patronage of his superiors. 
Of the duties of the Hanlin, these official regulations afford 
us a better idea indicating each line of intellectual activity, 
from the selection of fancy names for people in high position 
up to the conducting of provincial examinations and the writing 
of national histories ; but the advancement of science is not 
among them. They do nothing to extend the boundaries of 
human knowledge, simply because they are not aware that after 
the achievements of Confucius and the ancient sages any new 
world remains to be conquered. Towards the close of the last 
year the Emperor, by special decree, referred to the Academy 
the responsibility of proposing honorific titles for the Empress- 
dowager and the Empress-mother. The result was the pair of 
euphonious pendants, K*angyi and Kangking, with which the 
Imperial ladies were decorated on retiring from the regency ; 
and we are left to imagine the anxious deliberations, the labori- 
ous search for precedents, the minute comparison of the histori- 
cal and poetical allusions involved in each title, before the learned 
body were able to arrive at a decision. 


The composition of prayers to be used by his Majesty or his 
deputies on sundry occasions, and the writing of inscriptions for 
the temples of various divinities, in acknowledgment of services, 
are among the lighter tasks of the Hanlin. They are not, how- 
ever, like that above referred to, of rare occurrence. Ambitious 
of anything that can confer distinction on their respective local- 
ities, the people of numerous districts petition the throne to 
honor the temple where they worship by the gift of an Imperial 
inscription. They ascertain that some time within the past 
twenty years the divinity there worshipped has .interfered to 
prevent a swollen river from bursting its banks ; to avert a 
plague of locusts, or arrest a protracted drought ; or, by a noc- 
turnal display of spectral armies, to drive away a horde of rebels. 
They report the facts in the case to their magistrates, who verify 
them, and forward the application to the Emperor, who in turn 
directs the members of the Hanlin to write the desired inscrip- 
tion. Cases of this kind abound in the Peking gazette ; one of 
those best known to foreigners being that of Sze-tai-wang at 
Tientsin, whose merit in checking, under the avatar of a serpent, 
the disastrous floods of 1871 obtained from the Emperor the 
honor of a commemorative tablet written by the doctors of the 

If to these we add the scrolls and tablets written by Imperial 
decree for schools and charitable institutions throughout the 
Empire, we must confess that the Hanlin Yuan might earn for 
itself the title of Academy of Inscriptions in a sense somewhat 
different from that in which the term is employed in the West- 
ern World. Indeed, so disproportionate is the space allotted in the 
constitution to these petty details that the reader, judging from 
that document alone, would be liable to infer that the Acade- 
micians were seldom burdened with any more serious employ- 
ment. But let him go into one of the great libraries connected 
with the court (unhappily not yet accessible to the foreign stu- 
dent), or even to the great book-stores of the Chinese city, and 


he will learn at a glance that the Hanlin is not a mere piece of 
Oriental pageantry. Let him ask for the Book of Odes; the 
salesman hands him an Imperial edition in twenty volumes, with 
notes and illustrations by the doctors of the Hanlin. If he in- 
quire for the Book of Rites, or any of the thirteen canonical 
books, the work is shown him in the same elegant type, equally 
voluminous in extent, and executed by the hands of the same 
inexhaustible editors. Then there are histories without num- 
ber; next to the classics in dignity, and far exceeding them in 

If the poems of India, such as the Mahabharat, in length out- 
measuring half a score of Iliads, suggest the idea of the infinite, 
the histories of China are adapted to produce a similar impres- 
sion. There are in the capital, at this present time, no fewer 
than four bureaus or colleges of history, constantly occupied, 
not, as might be supposed, with the history of other countries 
and distant ages, but with the events of the present reign and 
those of its immediate predecessor. These are all conducted by 
members of the Hanlin; and the scale on which they execute 
their tasks may be inferred from the fact that the Bureau of 
Military History recently reported the completion of a portion 
of its labors in seven hundred and twenty books, or about three 
hundred and sixty volumes. These only cover the Taiping and 
Nienfei rebellions, leaving the Mahometan and foreign wars of 
the last seventeen years to be spun out probably to an equal 

Here is a paragraph from the instructions of one of these 
bureaus, which, in respect to the laborious minuteness which 
they exact, may be taken as a sample of the whole : 

" They (the scribes) are to take note of the down-sitting and 
uprising of his Majesty, and to keep a record of his every word 
and action. They are to attend his Majesty when he holds 
court and gives audience ; when he visits the Altar of Heaven 
or the Temple of Ancestors ; when he holds a feast of the clas- 


sics, or ploughs the sacred field ; when he visits the schools or 
'reviews the troops ; when he bestows entertainments, celebrates 
a military triumph, or decides the fate of criminals. They must 
follow the Emperor in his hunting excursions, and during his 
sojourn at his country palace. They will hear the Imperial 
voice with reverence, and record its utterances with care, append- 
ing to every entry the date and name of the writer. At the 
end of every month these records shall be sealed up and deposit- 
ed in a desk, and at the close of the year transferred to the 
custody of the Inner Council." 

Besides these dynastic histories, there are topographical his- 
tories of provinces, prefectures, districts, and even of towns and 
villages, in number and extent to which we have no parallel. 
In most of these the government takes a direct interest, and as 
far as possible they are edited by members of the Hanlin ; e. g., 
a supplement is now being made at Paotingfu to the history 
of the province of Chihli, bringing it through the troubled 
days of the Taiping rebellion and foreign invasion, down to the 
present time. It is executed under the superintendence of a 
Hanlin Piensieu, whose services were not obtained without a 
special application to the throne by the Viceroy Li Hung Chang. 

In addition to work of this kind, which is constant as the 
stream of time, the Hanlin supplies writers and editors for all the 
literary" enterprises of the Emperor. Some of these are so vast 
that it is safe to say no people would undertake them but those 
who erected the Great Wall and excavated the Grand Canal ; nor 
would China have had the courage to face them had she not kept 
on foot as a permanent institution a standing army of learned 

Two of these colossal enterprises distinguish the brilliant 
prime of the present dynasty ; while a third, of proportions 
still more huge, dates back to the second reign of the Mings. 
This last is the Yung-lo-ta-tien, a cyclopaedic digest of the Im- 
perial library, which at that time contained 300,000 volumes. 


There were employed in the task 2169 clerks and copyists, un- 
der the direction of a commission consisting of three presidents, 
five vice-presidents, and twenty sub-directors. The work, when 
completed, contained 22,937 books, or about half that number 
of volumes. It was never printed as a whole, and two of the 
three manuscript copies, together with about a tenth part of the 
third, were destroyed by fire in the convulsions that attended 
the overthrow of the Mings. 

In the reign of Kanghi (latter part of the seventeenth cen- 
tury) a similar compilation was executed, numbering 6000 vol- 
umes, and beautifully printed on movable copper types, with the 
title of T'u-shu-chi-citeng. 

About a century later, under Kienlung, a still larger collec- 
tion, intended to supplement the former, and preserve all that 
was most valuable in the extant literature, was printed on mov- 
able wooden types with the title of Sze-k'u-ch'uen-sku. These 
two collections reproduce a great part of the preceding ; never- 
theless, great pains have been taken to copy out and preserve 
the original work. A commission of members of the Hanlin 
was appointed for this purpose by Kienlung, and a copy of the 
work, it is said, now forms a part of the Hanlin library. In 
this connection we may mention two other great works executed 
under the Mings, which have been reproduced by the present 
dynasty in an abridged or modified form. While the codifica- 
tion of the laws found in Yunglo a Chinese Justinian, it found 
its Tribonians among the doctors of the Academy. The En- 
cyclopedia of Philosophy, compiled by the Hanlin under Yunglo, 
the second of the Mings, was abridged by the Hanlin, under 
Kanghi, the second of the Tsings. A still more important labor 
of the Hanlin, performed by order of the last-named illustrious 
ruler, was the dictionary which bears his name a labor more in 
keeping with its character as a literary corporation. 

Thiers speaks of the French Academy as having la mission a 
regler la marche de la langue. It did this by publishing its fa- 


mous dictionary ; and about the same time the members of the 
Ilanlin were performing a similar task for the language of 
China, by the preparation of the great dictionary of Kanghi a 
work which stands much higher as an authority than does the 
Dictionnaire de F Academic J^ranpaise. A small work, not un- 
worthy of mention in connection with these grave labors, is the 
Sacred Edict, which goes under the name of Kanghi. It is 
not, however, the composition of either Kanghi or Yung-cheng, 
but purely a production of Ilanlin pencils. In the Memoirs 
of the Academy we find a decree assigning the task and pre- 
scribing the mode of performance : 

"'Taking,' says the Emperor, 'the sixteen edicts (or maxims 
of seven words each) of our sacred ancestor surnamed the Be- 
nevolent for a basis, we desire to expand and illustrate their 
meaning, for the instruction of our soldiers and people. Let 
the members of the Hanlin compose an essay, of between five 
and six hundred characters, on each text, in a plain and lucid 
style, shunning alike the errors of excessive polish and rusticity. 
Let the same text be given to eight or nine persons, each of 
whom will prepare a discourse, and hand it in in a sealed enve- 
lope.' " 

From this it appears that the sixteen elegant discourses 
which compose the body of that work are selections from over 
a hundred the picked performances of picked men. 

In the early part of the Manchu dynasty, the Hanlin were 
much engaged in superintending the translation of Chinese 
works into Manchu, a language now so little understood by the 
Tartars of Peking that those voluminous versions have almost 
ceased to be of any practical value. Under the present reign 
the learned doctors have been working somewhat in a different 
direction, showing that the Chinese are not so incapable of in- 
novation as is usually supposed. A minority reign naturally 
suggested the want of a royal road to the acquisition of knowl- 
edge ; our Hanlin doctors were accordingly directed to supply 


his Majesty with copies of History made easy and the Classics 
made easy. The mode of making easy was a careful rendering 
into the Mandarin or court dialect a style which these admira- 
ble doctors disdain as much as the mediaeval scholars of Europe 
did the vernacular of their day. May we not hope that these 
works, after educating the Emperor, will, like those prepared by 
the Jesuits in usum Delphini, be brought to the light for the in- 
struction of his people ? 

As it is intended here to indicate the variety rather than the 
extent of the literary labors of the Hanlin, these remarks would 
be incomplete if they did not refer to their poetry. They are 
all poets ; each a laureate, devoting his talents to the glorifica- 
tion of his Imperial patron. Swift said of an English laureate, 

" Young must torture his invention 
To flatter knaves, or lose a pension." 

In China the office is not held on such a condition. Sage em- 
perors have been known to strike out with their own pen the 
finest compliments offered them by their official bards. Kien- 
lung, as we have seen, felt it necessary to warn the Hanlin 
against the prevailing vice of poets and pensioners. In China 
poetry is put to a better purpose ; Imperial decrees and official 
proclamations being often expressed in verse, for the same reason 
that induced Solon to borrow the aid of verse in the promulga- 
tion of his laws. Didactic compositions in verse are without 
number, and for the most part as dry as Homer's catalogue of 
the fleet. A popular cyclopaedia, for instance, in over a score 
of volumes, treats of all imaginable subjects in a kind of irregu- 
lar verse called fu. 

Employed as scribes and editors, it would be too much to ex- 
pect that the Hanlin should distinguish themselves for original- 
ity. It is a rare thing for an original work to spring from the 
brain of an Academician. In imitation of Confucius, they might 
inscribe over their door, " We edit, but we do not compose." 

" On entering this hall," said M. Thiers, taking his seat in the 


French Academy forty years ago, " I feel the proudest recollec- 
tions of our national history awakening within me. Here it is 
that Corneille, Bossuet, Voltaire, and Montesquieu, one after an- 
other, came and took their seats ; and here more recently have 
sat Laplace and Cuvier. . . . Three great men, Laplace, La- 
grange, and Cuvier, opened the century ; a numerous band of 
young and ardent intellects have followed in their wake. Some 
study the primeval history of our planet, thereby to illustrate 
the history of its inhabitants ; others, impelled by the love of 
humanity, strive to subjugate the elements in order to ameliorate 
the condition of man ; still others study all ages and traverse all 
countries, in hopes of adding something to the treasures of in- 
tellectual and moral philosophy. . . . Standing in the midst of 
you, the faithful and constant friends of science, permit me to 
exclaim, happy are those who take part in the noble labors of 
this age !" 

In this passage we have a true portraiture of the spirit that 
animates the peerage of the Western intellect ; they lead the age 
in every path of improvement, and include in their number those 
whom a viceroy of Egypt felicitously described, not as peers, but 
as les fetes couronnees de la science. How different from the 
drowsy routine which prevails in the chief tribunal of Chinese 
learning ! Of all this the Chinese Academician has no concep- 
tion ; he is an anachronism, his country is an anachronism, as 
far in the rear of the world's great march as were the people of 
a secluded valley, mentioned in Chinese literature, who, finding 
there an asylum from trouble and danger, declined intercourse 
with the rest of mankind, and after the lapse of many centuries 
imagined that the dynasty of Han .was still upon the throne. 

It is doing our Hanlin a species of injustice to compare him 
with the Academicians, or even with the commonalty of the 
West, in a scientific point of view ; for science is just the thing 
which he does not profess, and that general information which 
is regarded as indispensable by the average intelligence of 


Christendom is to the Hanlin a foreign currency, which has no 
recognized value in the market of his country; nevertheless, we 
shall proceed to interrogate him as to his information on a few 
points, merely for the sake of bringing to view the actual con- 
dition of the educated mind of China. 

In history he can recite with familiar ease the dynastic records 
of his own country for thousands of years ; but he never heard 
of Alexander or Ca3sar or the first Napoleon. Of the third 
Napoleon he may have learned something from a faint echo of 
the catastrophe at Sedan, certainly not from the missions of 
Burlingame or Ch'unghau events that are yet too recent to 
have reached the ears of these students of antiquity, who, what- 
ever their faults, are not chargeable with being rerum novarum 

In geography he is not at home even among the provinces of 
China proper, and becomes quite bewildered when he goes to 
the north of the Great Wall. Of Columbus and the New World 
he is profoundly ignorant, not knowing in what part of the globe 
lies the America of which he may have heard as one among the 
Treaty Powers. With the names of England and France he is 
better acquainted, as they have left their record in opened ports 
and ruined palaces. Russia he thinks of as a semi-barbarous 
state, somewhere among the Mongolian tribes, which formerly 
brought tribute, and was vanquished in conflict her people be- 
ing led in triumph by the prowess of Kanghi.* 

In astronomy he maintains the dignity of our native globe as 
the centre of the universe, as his own country is the middle of 
the habitable earth a conviction in which he is confirmed by 
the authority of those learned Jesuits who persisted in teaching 
the Ptolemaic system three centuries after the time of Coperni- 
cus. Of longitude and latitude he has no conception ; and re- 

* The Siberian garrison of Albazin were brought to Peking, where their 
descendants still reside. 


fuses even to admit the globular form of the earth, because an 
ancient tradition asserts that "heaven is round and the earth 
square." To him the stars are shining characters on the book 
of fate, and eclipses portents of approaching calamity. 

In zoology he believes that tigers plunging into the sea are 
transformed into sharks, and that sparrows by undergoing the 
same baptism are converted into oysters ; for the latter meta- 
morphosis is gravely asserted in canonical books, and the former 
is a popular notion which he cares not to question. Arithmetic 
he scorns as belonging to shopkeepers ; and mechanics he dis- 
dains on account of its relation to machinery and implied con- 
nection with handicraft. 

Of general physics he nevertheless holds an ill-defined theory, 
which has for its basis the dual forces that generated the uni- 
verse, and the five elements which profess to comprehend all 
forms of matter, but omit the atmosphere. Of the nature of 
these elements his text-book gives the following luminous expo- 
sition : namely, that " the nature of water is to run downward ; 
the nature of fire is to flame upward ; the nature of wood is to 
be either crooked or straight ; the nature of metals is to be pli- 
able, and subject to change ; the nature of earth is to serve the 
purposes of agriculture." * 

So weighty is the information contained in these sentences 
that he accepts them as a special revelation, the bed-rock of 
human knowledge, beneath which it would be useless, if not 
profane, to attempt to penetrate. It never occurs to our phi- 
losopher to inquire why water flows downward, and why fire 
ascends; to his mind both are ultimate facts. On this foun- 
dation human sagacity has erected the pantheon of universal 
science. This it has done by connecting the five elements with 
the five planets, the five senses, the five musical tones, the five 
colors, and the five great mountain-ranges of the earth ; the 

* From the Hungfan in the Shuking. 


quintal classification originating in the remarkable observation 
that man has five fingers on his hand, and setting forth the har- 
mony of nature as a connected whole with a beautiful simplicity 
that one seeks for in vain in the Kosmos of Humboldt. 

This system, which our Hanlin accepts, though he does not 
claim the merit of having originated it, is not a mere fanciful 
speculation ; it is a practical doctrine skilfully adapted to the 
uses of human life. In medicine it enables him to adapt his 
remedies to the nature of the disease. When he has contracted 
a fever on shipboard or in a dwelling that has a wooden floor, 
he perceives at once the origin of his malady, or his physician 
informs him that " wood produces fire ;" earth is wanted to re- 
store the balance, i. e. life on shore, or outdoor exercise. 

In the conduct of affairs it enables him to get the lucky stars 
in his favor, and, through the learned labors of the Board of 
Astronomy, it places in his hands a guide-book which informs 
him when he should commence or terminate an enterprise, when 
he may safely venture abroad, and when it would be prudent to 
remain at home. It enables him to calculate futurity, and obtain 
the advantages of a kind of scientia media, or conditional fore- 
knowledge ; to know how to arrange a marriage so as to secure 
felicity according to the horoscope of the parties ; and ascertain 
where to locate the dwellings of the living or the resting-places 
of the dead, in order to insure to their families the largest 
amount of prosperity. 

These occult sciences the Hanlin believes implicitly, but he 
does not profess to understand them contented in such matters 
to be guided by the opinion of professional experts. A Saddu- 
cee in creed and an epicure in practice, the comforts of the pres- 
ent life constitute his highest idea of happiness ; yet he never 
thinks of devising any new expedient for promoting the physi- 
cal well-being of his people. Like some of the philosophers of 
our Western antiquity, he would feel degraded by occupation 
with anything lower than politics and ethics, or less refined than 


poetry and rhetoric. " Seneca," says Lord Macaulay, " labors to 
clear Democritus from the disgraceful imputation of having 
made the first arch ; and Anacharsis from the charge of having 
contrived the potter's wheel." No such apologist is required for 
our doctors of the Hanlin, inasmuch as no such impropriety was 
ever laid to their charge. 

The noble motto of the French Institute, Invenit et perfecit, is 
utterly alien from the spirit and aims of the Academicians of 
China. With them the Golden Age is in the remote past ; every- 
thing for the good of human society has been anticipated by the 
wisdom of the ancients. 

" Omnia jam ferme mortalibus esse parata." 

Nothing remains for them to do but to walk in the footsteps of 
their remote ancestors. 

Having thus subjected our Academician to an examination in 
the elements of a modern education, we must again caution our 
readers against taking its result as a gauge of mental power or 
actual culture. In knowledge, according to our standard, he is a 
child ; in intellectual force, a giant. A veteran athlete, the victor 
of a hundred conflicts, his memory is prodigious, his apprehen- 
sion quick, and his taste in literary matters exquisite. 

" It is a dangerous error," says an erudite editor of Sir W. 
Hamilton, " to regard the cultivation of our faculties as sub- 
ordinate to the acquisition of knowledge, instead of knowledge 
being subordinate to the cultivation of our faculties. In conse- 
quence of this error, those sciences which afford a greater num- 
ber of more certain facts have been deemed superior in utility 
to those which bestow a higher cultivation on the higher facul- 
ties of the mind." 

The peculiar discipline under which the Hanlin is educated, 
with its advantages and defects, we shall indicate in another 
place. Before quitting this branch of the subject, we may re- 
mark, however, that its result as witnessed in the Hanlin is not, 


as generally supposed, a feeble, superficial polish which unfits its 
recipient for the duties of practical life ; on the contrary, mem- 
bership in the Hanlin is avowedly a preparation for the dis- 
charge of political functions, a stepping-stone to the highest 
offices in the State. The Academician is not restricted to func- 
tions that partake of a literary character; he may be a viceroy 
as well as a provincial examiner; a diplomatic minister as well 
as a rhymester of the court. 

In glancing over the long catalogue of the academic Legion 
of Honor, one is struck by the large proportion of names that 
have become eminent in the history of their country. 

We have had occasion more than once in the preceding pages 
to refer to the Memoirs of the Academy. These records, un- 
fortunately, extend back no further than the accession of the 
present dynasty, in 1644; and they terminate with 1801, com- 
prising only a little more than one and a half of the twelve 
centuries of the society's existence. Published under Imperial 
auspices in thirty-two thin volumes, they are so divided that the 
books or sections amount to the cabalistic number sixty-four, 
the square of the number of the original diagrams which form 
the basis of the Yih-king, the national Book of Divination. 

The first thing that strikes us on opening these pages is the 
spirit of imperialism with which they appear to be saturated. 
The transactions of his Majesty constitute the chief subject ; 
the performances of the members are mentioned only incident- 
ally ; and the whole association is exhibited in the character of 
an elaborate system of belts and satellites purposely adjusted 
to reflect the splendor of a central luminary. Cast your eye 
over the table of contents, and see with what relief this idea 
stands out as a controlling principle in the arrangement of the 

The first two books are devoted to what are called Sheng 
Yu, Holy Edicts, i. e. expressions of the Imperial mind in regard 
to the affairs of the society in any manner, however informal. 


Six books arc given to T'ien-chang, or Celestial Rhetoric, i. e. 
productions of the vermilion pencil in prose and verse. Eight 
books record the imposing ceremonies connected with Imperial 
visits; six books commemorate the marks of Imperial favor 
bestowed on members of the Academy ; sixteen of the remain- 
ing forty-two are occupied with a catalogue of those members 
who have been honored with appointments to serve in the Im- 
perial presence, or with special commissions of other kinds. In 
the residuary twenty-six we should expect to find specimens of 
the proper work of the Academy, and so we do; for no less 
than three books are taken up with ceremonial tactics; forms 
to be observed in attendance on the Emperor on sundry oc- 
casions, the etiquette of official intercourse, etc. ; these things 
occupying a place among the serious business of the society. 
Fourteen are filled with specimens of prose and verse from the 
pens of leading members, and one is assigned to a high-flown 
description of the magnificence of the academical buildings ; 
the rest contain a meagre catalogue of official employments and 
literary labors. 

What a picture does this present a picture drawn by them- 
selves of the highest literary corporation in the Empire ! Yet, 
notwithstanding the enormous toadyism with which they are 
inflated, we do not hesitate to say that the twenty-two books 
especially devoted to the emperors are by far the most readable 
and instructive portion of the Memoirs. They throw light on 
the personal character of these monarchs, exhibit the nature of 
their intercourse with their subjects, and illustrate the estimation 
in which polite letters are held in the view of the government. 

The first chapter opens with the following : 

" Shunche, the founder of the Imperial family, in the tenth 
year of his reign, visited the Inner Hall of the Academy, for the 
purpose of inspecting the translation of the Five Classics. On 
this occasion, his Majesty said, ' The virtues of Heaven and the 
true method of government are all recorded in the Book of 


History ; its principles will remain unalterable for ten thousand 
generations.' " 

The translation referred to was into the Manchu language ; it 
was made for the purpose of enabling the conquering race the 
more speedily to acquire the civilization of the conquered. 

The young sovereign, then only sixteen years of age, shows 
by this brief speech how thoroughly he had become imbued 
with the spirit of the Confucian books. The record proceeds : 

" In the fifth moon of the same year, his Majesty again visit- 
ing the Inner Hall, inquired of the directors why the writers 
had ceased from their work so early. The Chancellor Fan re- 
plied, 'This is the summer solstice; we suspend our labors a 
little earlier on that account.' 

" The Emperor, looking round on his attendant officers, said, 
' To take advantage of some peculiarity of the season to make 
a holiday is natural ; but if you wish to enjoy repose, you must 
first learn to labor; you must aid in settling the Empire on a 
secure basis, and then your days of rest will not be disturbed. 
If you aim only at pleasure without restraining your desires, 
placing self and family first and the Empire second, your pleas- 
ure will be of short duration. Behold, for example, our course 
of conduct, how diligent we are in business, how anxiously we 
strive to attain perfection. It is for this reason we take pleas- 
ure in hearing the discourses of these learned men ; men of the 
present day are good at talking, but they are not so good at 
acting. Why so ? Because they have no settled principles ; 
they act one way to-day and another to-morrow. But who 
among mortals is free from faults? If one correct his faults 
when he knows them, he is a good man ; if, on the contrary, he 
conceal his faults and present the deceptive aspect of virtue, his 
errors multiply and his guilt becomes heavier. If we, and you, 
our servants, are diligent in managing the affairs of state, so 
that the benefit shall reach the people, Heaven will certainly 
vouchsafe its protection; while on those who do evil without 


inward examination or outward reform, Heaven will send down 
calamity. ... If your actions were virtuous, would Heaven 
afflict you? Ch'engt'ang was a virtuous ruler, yet he did not 
spare pains in correcting his faults ; on the contrary, Chengteh, 
of the Ming dynasty, had his heart set on enjoyment, and clung 
to his own vices, while he was perpetually finding fault with 
the shortcomings of his ministers. When the prince himself 
refuses to reform, the reformation of his people will be impossi- 
ble, however virtuous his officers may be.' " 

This little sermon, excepting the preceding brief encomium 
on the sacred books, is all that the Academy has thought fit to 
preserve of the discourses of Shunche. His son, the illustrious 
Kanghi, fills a large space in the Memoirs. Here are a few ex- 
tracts, by way of specimens : 

"The Emperor Kanghi, in the ninth year of his reign (the 
fifteenth of his age), said to the officers of the Board of Rites, 
' If one would learn the art of government, he must explore the 
classic learning of the ancients. Whenever we can find a day 
of leisure from affairs of state, we spend it in the study of the 
classics. Reflecting that what is called Classic Feast and Daily 
Exposition are important usages, which ought to be revived, 
you are required to examine and report on the necessary regu- 
lations.' " 

In his twelfth year, his Majesty said to the Academician Futali, 

" To cherish an inquiring mind is the secret of progress in 
learning. If a lesson be regarded as an empty form, and, when 
finished, be dismissed from the thoughts, what benefit can there 
be to heart or life? As for us, when our servants (the Han- 
lin) are through with their discourses, we always reflect deeply 
on the subject-matter, and talk over with others any new ideas 
we may have obtained ; our single aim being a luminous per- 
ception of the truth. The intervals of business, whether the 
weather be hot or cold, we occupy in reading and writing." 

So saying, his Majesty exhibited a specimen of his penman- 



ship, remarking that calligraphy was not the study of a prince, 
but that he found amusement in it. 

In the ninth moon of the same year, his Majesty said to 
Hiong-tsze-ltt, " The precept in the Tahio, on the study of things, 
is very comprehensive; it is not to be limited to mathematical 
inquiries and mechanical contrivances." 

Again he said, " Heaven and earth, past and present, are gov- 
erned by one law. Our aim should be to give our learning the 
widest possible range, and to condense it into the smallest pos- 
sible compass." 

In the fourteenth year, his Majesty, on reading a paper of 
the Hanlin, and finding himself compared to the Three Kings 
and Two Emperors (of ancient times), condemned the expres- 
sion as a piece of empty flattery, and ordered it to be changed. 

In the sixteenth year, his Majesty said, "Learning must be 
reduced to practice in order to be beneficial. You are required 
to address me with more frankness, concealing nothing in order 
to aid me in carrying into practice the principles to which I 
have attended." 

In the nineteenth year, the Emperor, in bestowing on mem- 
bers of the Hanlin specimens of his autograph, remarked that 
in ancient times sovereign and subject were at liberty to criti- 
cise each other, and he desired them to exercise that liberty in 
regard to his handwriting, which he did not consider as a model. 

In the twenty-first year, in criticising certain specimens of 
ancient chirography, his Majesty pointed to one from the pen 
of Lukung, remarking, " In the firmness and severity of these 
strokes I perceive the heroic spirit with which the writer bat- 
tled with misfortune." 

In the twenty-second year, his Majesty ordered that the topics 
chosen for the lectures of the Classic Feast should not, as hith- 
erto, be selected solely with reference to the sovereign, but that 
they should be adapted to instruct and stimulate the officers as 


In the twenty-third year, his Majesty was on a journey, when, 
the boat mooring for the night, he continued reading until the 
third watch. His clerk a member of the Hanlin had to beg 
his Majesty to allow himself a little more time for repose ; 
whereupon his Majesty gave a detailed account of his habits of 
study, all the particulars of which are here faithfully preserved. 

In the forty-third year, his Majesty said to the High Chancel- 
lor and members of the Academy, " From early youth I have 
been fond of the ink-stone ; every day writing a thousand char- 
acters, and copying with care the chirography of the famous 
scribes of antiquity. This practice I have kept up for more 
than thirty years, because it was the bent of my nature. In the 
Manchu I also acquired such facility that I never make a mis- 
take. The endorsements on memorials from viceroys and gov- 
ernors, and Imperiaf placets, are all written with my own hand, 
without the aid of a preliminary draft. Things of any impor- 
tance, though months and years may elapse, I never forget, not- 
withstanding the endorsed documents are on file in the respec- 
tive offices, and not even a memorandum left in my hands." 

In the fiftieth year, his Majesty said to the High Chancellors, 

"In former generations I observe that, on occasion of the 
Classic Feast, the sovereign was accustomed to listen in respect- 
ful silence, without uttering a word. By that means his igno- 
rance was not exposed, though he might not comprehend a word 
of the discourse. The usage was thus a mere name without the 

" As for me, I have now reigned fifty years and spent all my 
leisure hours in diligent study ; and whenever the draft of a dis- 
course was sent in, I never failed to read it over. If by chance 
a word or sentence appeared doubtful, I always discussed it with 
my literary aids ; for the Classic Feast is an important institu- 
tion, and not by any means to be viewed as an insignificant cer- 

Of Yungcheng, the son and successor of Kanghi, the Memoirs 


have preserved but a single discourse, and of that only its open- 
ing sentence is worth quoting. His Majesty said to the mem- 
bers of the Hanlin, " Literature is your business, but we want 
such literature as will serve to regulate the age and reflect glory 
on the nation. As for sonnets to the moon and the clouds, the 
winds and the dews of what use are they ?" 

The next Emperor, Kienlung, far surpassed his predecessors in 
literary taste and attainments; and his reign being long (sixty 
years), his communications to the Hanlin are more than propor- 
tionally voluminous. Space, however, compels us to make our 
extracts in the inverse ratio. Many of the preceding and some 
which follow have nothing to do with the Academy, save that 
they were speeches uttered in the hearing of the Hanlin, and by 
them recorded. This, however, is to the point. 

In the second year his Majesty said to Ae general directors, 
" Yesterday we examined the members of the Academy, giving 
them for a theme the sentence ' It is hard to be a sovereign, and 
to be a subject is not easy.' Of course there is a difference in 
the force of the expressions ' hard ' and ' not easy,' yet not one 
of them perceived the distinction." Here follows an elaborate 
exposition from the vermilion pencil, which I must forego, at 
the risk of leaving my readers in perpetual darkness as to the 
momentous distinction. It is, however, but just to say that the 
Emperor intends the paper, not as a scholastic exercise, but as a 
political lesson. 

In the fifth year, his Majesty says he has remarked that the 
addresses of the Hanlin contain a large amount of adulation, and 
a very small amount of instruction. He accordingly recommends 
them to modify their style. Two years later he complains that 
"the Hanlin often make a text from the sacred books a stalk- 
ing-horse for irrelevant mattters ; e. g. Cltow-changfah, in lectur- 
ing on the Book of Rites, took occasion to laud the magnificence 
of our sacrifice at the Altar of Heaven as without a parallel for 
a thousand years." " Before the sacrifice," he says, 


"'Heaven gave a good omen in a fall of snow, and during its 
performance the sun shone down propitiously.' Now these rites 
were not of my institution ; moreover, the soft winds and gentle 
sunshine on the occasion were purely accidental ; for at that very 
time the Province of Kiangnan was suffering from disastrous 
floods, and my mind tormented with anxiety on that account. 
Let Chow-changfah be severely reprimanded, and let the other 
Hanlin take warning." 

Among the remaining speeches of Kienlung, there are three 
that do him credit as a vindicator of the truth of history. In 
one of them he rebukes the historiographers for describing cer- 
tain descendants of the Mings as usurpers, observing that they 
came honestly by their titles, though they were not able to main- 
tain them. In another he criticises the ignorance and wilful per- 
versions of facts exhibited by Chinese historians in their account 
of the three preceding Tartar dynasties namely, the Liau, Kin, 
and Yuen. And in the last he reproves his own writers of his- 
tory for omitting the name of a meritorious individual who had 
fallen into disgrace. 

Among the communications of the next Emperor, Kiaking 
(the Memoirs close with the fourth year of his reign), I find 
nothing of sufficient interest to be worth the space it would oc- 

Thus far the emperors ; what the Hanlin say to them in con- 
versation or formal discourse is not recorded. But we know 
that they are so situated as to exert a more direct influence on 
the mind of their master than subjects of any other class. They 
are the instructors of his youth, and the counsellors of his ma- 
turer years ; and this, the fixing of the views and moulding of 
the character of the autocrat of the Empire, we may fairly regard 
as their most exalted function. 

But if they influence the Emperor, we see in the preceding 
paragraphs how easy it is for the Emperor to influence them. 
Herein is our hope for the rehabilitation of the Academy. Far 


from being decayed or effete, it contains as many and as active 
minds as at any previous period. At present they spend much 
of their time in making " sonnets to the moon ;" but if the Em- 
peror were so disposed, he could change all that in a moment. 
He could employ the Haulin in translating out of English as 
well as into Manchu in studying science as well as letters. 

Nor are indications wanting that this change in the direction 
of their mental activity is likely to take place. Some years ago 
Prince Kung proposed that the junior members of the Hanlin 
should be required to attend the Tungwen College, for the pur- 
pose of acquiring the languages and sciences of Europe. Wojin, 
a president of the Hanlin and teacher of the Emperor, presented 
a counter-memorial, and the measure failed. But such is the 
march of events that the same measure, possibly in some modi- 
fied form, is sure to be revived, and destined to be finally success- 

When that time arrives, the example of the Academy will have 
great weight in promoting a radical revolution in the character 
of the national education. 



THE reform proposed in the organization of our civil service, 
which contemplates the introduction of a system of competitive 
examinations, makes an inquiry into the experience of other na- 
tions timely. England, France, and Prussia have each made use 
of competitive examinations in some branches of their public 
service. In all these states the result has been uniform a con- 
viction that such a system, so far as it can be employed, affords 
the best method of ascertaining the qualifications of candidates 
for government employment. But in these countries the exper- 
iment is of recent date and of limited application. We must look 
farther East if we would see the system working on a scale suf- 
ficiently large and through a period sufficiently extended to af- 
ford us a full exhibition of its advantages and defects. 

It is in China that its merits have been tested in the most sat- 
isfactory manner; and if in this instance we should profit by 
their experience, it would not be the first lesson we have learned 
from the Chinese, nor the last they are capable of giving us. It 
is to them that we are indebted, among other obligations, for the 
mariner's compass, for gunpowder,f and probably also for a re- 
mote suggestion of the art of printing. These arts have been 
of the first importance in their bearing on the advancement of 
society one of them having effected a complete revolution in 
the character of modern warfare, while the others have imparted 

* Reprinted from the North American Review for July, 1870. Read orig- 
inally before the American Oriental Society at Boston, October, 1868. 

f China's claim to the discovery of gunpowder has been vigorously com- 
bated, but, in my opinion, not set aside. 


a mighty impulse to intellectual culture and commercial enter- 
prise. Nor is it too much to affirm that, if we should adopt the 
Chinese method of testing the ability of candidates, and of se- 
lecting the best men for the service of the State, the change it 
would effect in our civil administration would be not less bene- 
ficial than those that have been brought about by the discoveries 
in the arts to which I have referred. 

The bare suggestion may perhaps provoke a smile ; but does 
any one smile at the idea that we might improve our polity by 
studying the institutions of Egypt, Rome, or Greece ? Are, then, 
the arrangements of a government that arose with the earliest of 
those states, and still exists in undecaying vigor, to be passed as 
undeserving of attention ? The long duration of the Chinese 
government, and the vast population to which it has served to 
secure a fair measure of prosperity, are phenomena that challenge 
admiration. Why should it be considered derogatory to our civ- 
ilization to copy an institution which is confessedly the master- 
piece in that skilful mechanism the balance-wheel that regulates 
the working of that wonderful machinery ? 

In the arts which we have borrowed from the Chinese we 
have not been servile imitators. In every case we have made 
improvements that astonish the original inventors. We employ 
movable type, apply steam and electricity to printing, use the 
needle as a guide over seas which no junk would have ventured 
to traverse, and construct artillery such as the inventors of gun- 
powder never dreamed of. Would it be otherwise with a trans- 
planted competitive system ? Should we not be able to purge it 
of certain defects that adhere to it in China, and so render it pro- 
ductive of good results which it fails to yield in its native cli- 
mate ? I think, therefore, that I shall serve a better purpose 
than the simple gratification of curiosity if I devote a brief space 
to the consideration of the most admirable institution of the Chi- 
nese Empire. 

Its primary object was to provide men of ability *or the ser- 


vice of the State, and, whatever else it may have failed to accom- 
plish, it is impossible to deny that it has fulfilled its specific end 
in a remarkable degree. The mandarins of China are almost 
without exception the choicest specimens of the educated classes. 
Alike in the capital and in the provinces, it is the mandarins that 
take the lead in every kind of literary enterprise. It is to them 
the Emperor looks to instruct as well as to govern his people ; 
and it is to them that the publishers look for additions to the 
literature of the nation nine tenths of the new books being 
written by mandarins. In their social meetings, their conversa- 
tion abounds in classical allusions ; and instead of after-dinner 
speeches, they are accustomed to amuse themselves with the 
composition of impromptu verses, which they throw off with in- 
credible facility. It is their duty to encourage the efforts of stu- 
dents, to preside at the public examinations, and to visit the pub- 
lic schools to promote, in short, by example as well as precept 
the interests of education. Scarcely anything is deemed a deep- 
er disgrace than for a magistrate to be found incompetent for 
this department of his official duties. So identified, indeed, are 
the mandarins with all that constitutes the intellectual life of 
the Chinese people that foreigners have come to regard them 
as a favored caste, like the Brahmins of India, or as a distinct 
order enjoying a monopoly of learning, like the priesthood in 

Nothing could be further from the truth. Those stately offi- 
cials, for whom 'the people make way with such awe-struck defer- 
ence, as they pass along the street with embroidered robes and 
imposing retinue, are not possessors of hereditary rank, neither 
do they owe their elevation to the favor of their sovereign, nor 
yet to the suffrages of their fellow-subjects. They are self-elect- 
ed, and the people regard them with the deeper respect, because 
they know that they have earned their position by intellectual 
effort. What can be more truly democratic than thus to offer 
to all " the inspiration of a fair opportunity ?" In this genuine 


democracy China stands unapproached among the nations of the 
earth ; for whatever imperfections may attach to her social or- 
ganization or to her political system, it must be acknowledged 
that China has devised the most effectual method for encourao-- 


ing effort and rewarding merit. Here at least is one country 
where wealth is not allowed to raise its possessor to the seat of 
power ; where the will even of an emperor cannot bestow its of- 
fices on uneducated favorites ; and where the caprice of the mul- 
titude is not permitted to confer the honors of the State on in- 
competent demagogues. 

The institution that accomplishes these results is not an inno- 
vation on the traditional policy of the Empire. It runs back in 
its essential features to the earliest period of recorded history. 
The adherence of the Chinese to it through so many ages well 
illustrates the conservative element in the national character; 
while the important changes it has undergone prove that this 
people is not by any means so fettered by tradition as to be in- 
capable of welcoming improvements. 

The germ from which it sprang was a maxim of the ancient 
sages, expressed in four syllables Chu hienjin neng " Employ 
the able and promote the worthy ;" and examinations were re- 
sorted to as affording the best test of ability and worth. Of the 
Great Shun, that model emperor of remote antiquity, who lived 
about B.C. 2200, it is recorded that he examined his officers 
every third year, and after these examinations either gave them 
promotion or dismissed them from the service. On what sub- 
jects he examined them at a time when letters were but newly 
invented, and when books had as yet no existence, we are not 
told; neither are we informed whether he subjected candidates 
to any test previous to appointment ; yet the mere fact of such 
a periodical examination established a precedent which has con- 
tinued to be observed to the present day. Every third year the 
government holds a great examination for the trial of candi- 
dates, and every fifth year makes a formal inquisition into the 


record of its civil functionaries. The latter is a poor substitute 
for the ordeal of public criticism to which officials are exposed 
in a country enjoying a free press ; but the former, as we shall 
have occasion to show, is thorough of its kind, and severely im- 

More than a thousand years after the above date, at the com- 
mencement of the Chow dynasty, B.C. 1115, the government 
was accustomed to examine candidates as well as officers ; and 
this time we are not left in doubt as to the nature of the exam- 
ination. The Chinese had become a cultivated people, and we 
are informed that all candidates for office were required to give 
proof of their acquaintance with the five arts music, archery, 
horsemanship, writing, and arithmetic ; and to be thoroughly 
versed in the rites and ceremonies of public and social life an 
accomplishment that ranked as a sixth art. These " six arts," 
expressed in the concise formula li, yo, shay, yu, shu, su, compre- 
hended the sum total of a liberal education at the period, and 
remind us of the trivium and quadrivium of the mediaeval 

Under the dynasty of Han, after the lapse of another thousand 
years, we find the range of subjects for the civil-service examina- 
tions largely extended. The Confucian Ethics had become cur- 
rent, and a moral standard was regarded in the selection of the 
competitors the district magistrates being required to send up 
to the capital such men as had acquired a reputation for hiao 
and lien " filial piety " and " integrity " the Chinese rightly 
considering that the faithful performance of domestic and social 
duties is the best guarantee for fidelity in public life. These 
hiao-lien, these " filial sons and honest subjects," whose moral 
character had been sufficiently attested, were now subjected to 
trial in respect to their intellectual qualifications. The trial was 
twofold first, as to their skill in the " six arts " already men- 
tioned ; and, secondly, as to their familiarity with one or more 
of the following subjects : the civil law, military affairs, agricult- 


ure, the administration of the revenue, and the geography of the 
Empire with special reference to the state of the water communi- 
cations. This was an immense advance on the meagre require- 
ments of the more ancient dynasties. 

Passing over another thousand years, we come to the era of 
the Tangs and the Sungs, when we find the standard of literary 
attainment greatly elevated, the graduates arranged in three 
classes, and officials in nine a classification which is still re- 

Arriving at the close of the fourth millennium, under the sway 
of the Mings and the Tsings of the present-day, we find the sim- 
ple trials instituted by Shun expanded into a colossal system, 
which may well claim to be the growth of four thousand years. 
It still exhibits the features that were prominent in its earlier 
stages the "six arts," the "five studies," and the "three de- 
grees " remaining as records of its progressive development. But 
the "six arts" are not what they once were; and the admirers 
of antiquity complain that examinations are sadly superficial as 
compared with those of the olden time, when competitors were 
required to ride a race, to shoot at a target, and to sing songs of 
their own composition to the accompaniment of their own gui- 
tars. In these degenerate days examiners are satisfied with odes 
in praise of music, and essays on the archery and horsemanship 
of the ancients. 

Scholarship is a very different thing now from what it was in 
those ruder ages, when books were few, and the harp, the bow, 
and the saddle divided the student's time with the oral instruc- 
tions of some famous master. Each century has added to the 
weight of his burden; and to the "heir of all the ages" each 
passing generation has bequeathed a legacy of toil. Doomed to 
live among the deposits of a buried world, and contending with 
millions of competitors, he can hardly hope for success without 
devoting himself to a life of unremitting study. True, he is not 
called upon to extend his researches beyond the limits of his own 


national literature ; but that is all but infinite. It costs him at 
the outset years of labor to get possession of the key that un- 
locks it; for the learned language is totally distinct from his 
vernacular dialect, and justly regarded as the most difficult of the 
languages of man. Then he must commit to memory the whole 
circle of the recognized classics, and make himself familiar with 
the best writers of every age of a country which is no less pro- 
lific in books than in men. No doubt his course of study is too 
purely literary and too exclusively Chinese, but it is not superfi- 
cial. In a popular " Student's Guide " we lately met with a 
course of reading drawn up for thirty years ! We proposed 
putting it into the hands of a young American residing in 
China, who had asked advice as to what he should read. " Send 
it," he replied, " but don't tell my mother." 

But it is time to take a closer view of these examinations as 
they are actually conducted. The candidates for office those 
who are acknowledged as such in consequence of sustaining the 
initial trial are divided into the three grades of siu-ts'ai, chu- 
jin, and tsin-shi "budding geniuses," "promoted scholars," 
and those who are " ready for office." The trials for the first 
are held in the chief city of each district or hien, a territorial di- 
vision which corresponds to our county or to an English shire. 
They are conducted by a chancellor, whose jurisdiction extends 
over an entire province containing, it may be, sixty or seventy 
such districts, each of which he is required to visit once a year, 
and each of which is provided with a resident sub-chancellor, 
whose duty it is to examine the scholars in the interval, and to 
have them in readiness on the chancellor's arrival. 

About two thousand competitors enter the lists, ranging in age 
from the precocious youth just entering his teens up to the ven- 
erable grandsire of seventy winters. Shut up for a night and a 
day, each in his narrow cell, they produce each a poem and one 
or two essays on themes assigned by the chancellor, and then re- 
turn to their homes to await the bulletin announcing their place 


in the scale of merit. The chancellor, assisted by his clerks, oc- 
cupies several days in sifting the heap of manuscripts, from 
which he picks out some twenty or more that are distinguished 
by beauty of penmanship and grace of diction. The authors of 
these are honored with the degree of " Budding Genius," and 
are entitled to wear the decorations of the lowest grade in the 
corporation of mandarins. 

The successful student wins no purse of gold and obtains no 
office, but he has gained a prize which he deems a sufficient 
compensation for years of patient toil. He is the best of a hun- 
dred scholars, exempted from liability to corporal punishment, 
and raised above the vulgar herd. The social consideration to 
which he is now entitled makes it a grand day for him and his 

Once in three years these " Budding Geniuses," these picked 
men of the districts, repair to the provincial capital to engage in 
competition for the second degree that of chu-jin, or " Promot- 
ed Scholar." The number of competitors amounts to ten thou- 
sand, more or less, and of these only one in every hundred can 
be admitted to the coveted degree. The trial is conducted by 
special examiners sent down from Peking ; and this examination 
takes a wider range than the preceding. No fewer than three 
sessions of nearly three days each are occupied, instead of the 
single day for the first degree. Compositions in prose and verse 
are required, and themes are assigned with a special view to test- 
ing the extent of reading and depth of scholarship of the candi- 
dates. Penmanship is left out of the account each production, 
marked with a cipher, being copied by an official scribe, that the 
examiners may have no clew to its author and no temptation to 
render a biassed judgment. 

The victor still receives neither office nor emolument ; but the 
honor he achieves is scarcely less than that which was won by 
the victors in the Olympic games. Again, he is one of a hun- 
dred, each of whom was a picked man ; and as a result of this 


second victory he goes forth an acknowledged superior among 
ten thousand contending scholars. He adorns his cap "with the 
gilded button of a higher grade, erects a pair of lofty flag-staves 
before the gate of his family residence, and places a tablet over 
his door to inform those who pass by that this is the abode of 
a literary prize-man. But our " Promoted Scholar " is not yet 
a mandarin in the proper sense of the term. The distinction al- 
ready attained only stimulates his desire for higher honors 
honors which bring at last the solid recompense of an income. 

In the spring of the following year he proceeds to Peking to 
seek the next higher degree, attainment of which will prove a 
passport to office. The contest is still with his peers; that is, 
with other "Promoted Scholars," who, like himself, have come 
up from all the provinces of the empire. But the chances are 
this time more in his favor, as the number of prizes is now 
tripled ; and if the gods are propitious, his fortune is made. 

Though ordinarily not very devout, he now shows himself 
peculiarly solicitous to secure the favor of the divinities. He 
burns incense and gives alms. If he sees a fish floundering on 
the hook, he pays its price and restores it to its native element. 
He picks struggling ants out of the rivulet made by a recent 
shower, distributes moral tracts, or, better still, rescues chance 
bits of printed paper from being trodden in the mire of the 
streets.* If his name appears among the favored few, he not 
only wins himself a place in the front ranks of the lettered, but 
he plants his foot securely on the rounds of the official ladder 
by which, without the prestige of birth or the support of friends, 
it is possible to rise to a seat in the Grand Council of State or 
a place in the Imperial Cabinet. All this advancement presents 
itself in the distant prospect, while the office upon which he im- 

* The bearing of good works of this kind on the result of the competition 
is copiously illustrated by collections of anecdotes which are widely circu- 


mediately enters is one of respectability, and it may be of profit. 
It is generally that of mayor or sub-mayor of a district city, or 
sub-chancellor in the district examinations the vacant posts 
being distributed by lot, and therefore impartially, among those 
who have proved themselves to be " ready for office." 

Before the drawing of lots, however, for the post of a magis- 
trate among the people, our ambitious student has a chance of 
winning the more distinguished honor of a place in the Imperial 
Academy. With this view, the two or three hundred survivors 
of so many contests appear in the palace, where themes are as- 
signed them by the Emperor himself, and the highest honor is 
paid to the pursuit of letters by the exercises being presided 
over by his Majesty in person. Penmanship reappears as an 
element in determining the result, and a score or more of those 
whose style is the most finished, whose scholarship the ripest, 
and whose handwriting the most elegant, are drafted into the 
college of Hanlin, the "forest of pencils," a kind of Imperial 
Institute the members of which are recognized as standing at 
the head of the literary profession. These are constituted poets 
and historians to the Celestial Court, or deputed to act as chan- 
cellors and examiners in the several provinces.* 

But the diminishing series in this ascending scale has not yet 
reached its final term. The long succession of contests culmi- 
nates in the designation by the Emperor of some individual whom 
he regards as the chuang-yuen, or model scholar of the Empire 
the bright consummate flower of the season. This is not a 
common annual like the senior wranglership of Cambridge, nor 
the product of a private garden like the valedictory orator of 
our American colleges. It blooms but once in three years, and 
the whole Empire yields but a single blossom a blossom that is 
culled by the hand of Majesty and esteemed among the brightest 
ornaments of his dominion. Talk of academic honors such as 

* Vide preceding article for details concerning the Hanlin Yuan. 


are bestowed by Western nations in comparison with those which 
this Oriental Empire heaps on her scholar laureate ! Prov- 
inces contend for the shining prize, and the town that gives 
the victor birth becomes noted forever. Swift heralds bear the 
tidings of his triumph, and the hearts of the people leap at their 
approach. We have seen them enter a humble cottage, and 
amidst the flaunting of banners and the blare of trumpets an- 
nounce to its startled inmates that one of their relations had 
been crowned by the Emperor as the laureate of the year. And 
so high was the estimation in which the people held the success 
of their fellow-townsman that his wife was requested to visit 
the six gates of the city, and to scatter before each a handful of 
rice, that the whole population might share in the good-fortune 
of her household. A popular tale, La Bleue et la Blanche, 
translated from the Chinese by M. Julien, represents a goddess 
as descending from heaven, that she might give birth to the 
scholar laureate of the Empire. 

All this has, we confess, an air of Oriental display and exag- 
geration. It suggests rather the dust and sweat of the great na- 
tional games of antiquity than the mental toil and intellectual 
triumphs of the modern world. But it is obvious that a com- 
petition which excites so profoundly the interest of a whole na- 
tion must be productive of very decided results. That it leads 
to the selection of the best talent for the service of the public 
we have already seen ; but beyond this its primary object it 
exercises a profound influence upon the education of the people 
and the stability of the government. It is all, in fact, that China 
has to show in the way of an educational system. She has few 
colleges and no universities in our Western sense, and no na- 
tional system of common-schools ; yet it may be confidently as- 
serted that China gives to learning a more effective patronage 
than she could have done if each of her emperors had been an 
Augustus and every premier a Maecenas. She says to all her sons, 
" Prosecute your studies by such means as you may be able to 



command, whether in public or in private ; and, when you are 
prepared, present yourselves in the examination-hall. The gov- 
ernment will judge of your proficiency and reward your attain- 

Nothing can exceed the ardor which this standing offer in- 
fuses into the minds of all who have the remotest prospect of 
sharing in the prizes. They study not merely while they have 
teachers to incite them to diligence, but continue their studies 
with unabated zeal long after they have left the schools; they 
study in solitude and poverty ; they study amidst the cares of a 
family and the turmoil of business ; and the shining goal is kept 
steadily in view until the eye grows dim. Some of the aspirants 
impose on themselves the task of writing a fresh essay every 
day ; and they do not hesitate to enter the lists as often as the 
public examinations recur, resolved, if they fail, to continue try- 
ing, believing that perseverance has power to command success, 
and encouraged by the legend of the man who, needing a sewing- 
needle, made one by grinding a crowbar on a piece of granite. 

We have met an old mandarin who related with evident pride 
how, on gaining the second degree, he had removed with his 
whole family to Peking, from the distant province of Yunnan, 
to compete for the third ; and how at each triennial contest he 
had failed, until, after more than twenty years of patient wait- 
ing, at the seventh trial, and at the mature age of threescore, 
he bore off the coveted prize. He had worn his honors for 
seven years, and was then mayor of the city of Tientsin. In a 
list now on our table of ninety-nine successful competitors for 
the second degree, sixteen are over forty years of age, one sixty- 
two, and one eighty-three. The average age of the whole num- 
ber is above thirty ; and for the third degree the average is of 
course proportionally higher. 

So powerful are the motives addressed to them that the whole 
body of scholars who once enter the examination-hall are de- 
voted to study as a life-long occupation. We thus have a class 


of men, numbering in the aggregate some millions, who keep 
their faculties bright by constant exercise, and whom it would 
be difficult to parallel in any Western country for readiness 
with the pen and retentiveness of memory. If these men are 
not highly educated, it is the fault, not of the competitive sys- 
tem, which proves its power to stimulate them to such prodigious 
exertions, but of the false standard of intellectual merit estab- 
lished in China. In that country letters are everything and 
science nothing. Men occupy themselves with words rather 
than with things; and the powers of acquisition are more culti- 
vated than those of invention. 

The type of Chinese education is not that of our modern 
schools; but when compared with the old curriculum of lan- 
guages and philosophy it appears by no means contemptible. 
A single paper, intended for the last day of the examination for 
the second degree, may serve as a specimen. It covers five sub- 
jects criticism, history, agriculture, military affairs, and finance. 
There are about twenty questions on each subject, and while 
they certainly do not deal with it in a scientific manner, it is 
something in their favor to say that they are such as cannot be 
answered without an extensive course of reading in Chinese 
literature. One question under each of the five heads is all that 
our space will allow us to introduce. 

1. "How do the rival schools of Wang and Ching differ in 
respect to the exposition of the meaning and the criticism of the 
text of the Book of Changes?" 

2. "The great historian Sze-ma-ts'ien prides himself upon 
having gathered up much material that was neglected by other 
writers. What are the sources from which he derived his in- 
formation ?" 

3. " From the earliest times great attention has been given to 
the improvement of agriculture. Will you indicate the arrange- 
ments adopted for that purpose by the several dynasties ?" 

4. " The art of war arose under Hwangte, forty-four hundred 


years ago. Different dynasties have since that time adopted 
different regulations in regard to the use of militia or standing 
armies, the mode of raising supplies for the army, etc. Can you 
state these briefly ?" 

5. "Give an account of the circulating medium under differ- 
ent dynasties, and state how the currency of the Sung dynasty 
corresponded with our use of paper money at the present day." 

In another paper, issued on a similar occasion, astronomy takes 
the place of agriculture ; but the questions are confined to such 
allusions to the subject as are to be met with in the circle of 
their classical literature, and afford but little scope for the dis- 
play of scientific attainments. Still, the fact that a place is found 
for this class of subjects is full of hope. It indicates that the 
door, if not fully open, is at least sufficiently ajar to admit the 
introduction of our Western sciences with all their progeny of 
arts, a band powerful enough to lift the Chinese out of the mists 
of their medieval scholasticism, and to bring them into the full 
light of modern knowledge. If the examiners were scientific 
men, and if scientific subjects were made sufficiently prominent 
in these higher examinations, millions of aspiring students would 
soon become as earnest in the pursuit of modern science as they 
now are in the study of their ancient classics.* Thus reformed 
and renovated by the injection of fresh blood into the old arte- 

* As a sample of the practical bearing which it is possible to give to 
these examination exercises, we take a few questions from another paper : 

"Fire-arms began with the use of rockets in the Chau dynasty (B.C. 
1100); in what book do we first meet with the word for cannon? What 
is the difference in the two classes of engines to which it is applied (ap- 
plied also to the catapult) ? Is the defence of K'aifungfu its first recorded 
use? Kublai Khan, it is said, obtained cannon of a new kind ; from whom 
did he obtain them? The Sungs had several varieties of small cannon, 
what were their advantages ? When the Mings, in the reign of Yungloh, 
invaded Cochin-China, they obtained a kind of cannon called the 'weapons 
of the gods ;' can you give an account of their origin ?" 


nes, this noble institution would rise to the dignity of a great 
national university a university not like those of Oxford and 
Cambridge, which train their own graduates, but to compare 
great things with small like the University of London, promot- 
ing the cause of learning by examining candidates and confer- 
ring degrees. The University of London admits to its initial 
examination annually about fourteen hundred candidates, and 
passes one half. The government examinations of China admit 
about two million candidates every year, and pass only one or 
two per cent. 

The political bearings of this competitive system are too im- 
portant to be passed over, and yet too numerous to be treated 
in detail. Its incidental advantages may be comprehended under 
three heads. 

1. It serves the State as a safety-valve, providing a career for 
those ambitious spirits which might otherwise foment disturb- 
ances or excite revolutions. While in democratic countries the 
ambitious flatter the people, and in monarchies fawn on the 
great, in China, instead of resorting to dishonorable arts or to 
political agitation, they betake themselves to quiet study. They 
know that their mental calibre will be fairly gauged, and that 
if they are born to rule, the competitive examinations will open 
to them a career. The competitive system has not, indeed, 
proved sufficient to employ all the forces that tend to produce 
intestine commotion ; but it is easy to perceive that without it 
the shocks must have been more frequent and serious. 

2. It operates as a counterpoise to the power of an absolute 
monarch. Without it the great offices would be filled by heredi- 
tary nobles, and the minor offices be farmed out by thousands to 
imperial favorites. With it a man of talent may raise himself 
from the humblest ranks to the dignity of viceroy or premier. 
Tsiang siang pun wu chuny " The general and the prime-min- 
ister are not born in office" is a line that every schoolboy is 
taught to repeat. Rising from the people, the mandarins under- 


stand the feelings and wants of the people, though it must be 
confessed that they are usually avaricious and oppressive in pro- 
portion to the length of time it has taken them to reach their 
elevation. Still, they have the support and sympathy of the 
people to a greater extent than they could have if they were 
the creatures of arbitrary power. The system, therefore, intro- 
duces a popular element into the government a check on the 
prerogative of the Emperor as to the appointment of officers, 
and serves as a kind of constitution to his subjects, prescribing 
the conditions on which they shall obtain a share in the admin- 
istration of the power of the State. 

3. It gives the government a hold on the educated gentry, 
and binds them to the support of existing institutions. It ren- 
ders the educated classes eminently conservative, because they 
know that in the event of a revolution civil office would be be- 
stowed, not as the reward of learning, but for political or mili- 
tary services. The literati, the most influential portion of the 
population, are for this reason also the most loyal. It is their 
support that has upheld the reigning house, though of a foreign 
race, through these long years of civil commotion, while to the 
" rebels " it has been a ground of reproach and a source of weak- 
ness 'that they have had but few literary men in their ranks. 

In districts where the people have distinguished themselves 
by zeal in the Imperial cause, the only recompense they crave is 
a" slight addition to the numbers on the competitive prize-list. 
Such additions the government has made very frequently of late 
years, in consideration of money supplies. It has also, to re- 
lieve its exhausted exchequer, put up for sale the decorations of 
the literary orders, and issued patents admitting contributors to 
the higher examinations without passing through the lower 
grades. But though the government thus debases the coin, it 
guards itself jealously against the issue of a spurious currency. 
Seven years ago Peiching, first president of the Examining 
Board at Peking, was put to death for having fraudulently con- 


ferred two or three degrees. The fraud was limited in extent, 
but the damage it threatened was incalculable. It tended to 
shake the confidence of the people in the administration of that 
branch of the government which constituted their only avenue 
to honors and office. Even the Emperor cannot tamper with it 
without peril. It is the Chinaman's ballot-box, his grand charter 
of rights; though the Emperor may lower its demands, in ac- 
cordance with the wishes of a majority, he could not set it aside 
without producing a revolution. 

Such is the Chinese competitive system, and such are some of 
its advantages and defects. May it not be feasible to graft some- 
thing of a similar character on our own republican institutions? 
More congenial to the spirit of our free government, it might be 
expected to yield better fruits in this country than in China. In 
British India it works admirably. In Great Britain, too, the dip- 
lomatic and consular services have been placed on a competitive 
basis ; and something of the kind must be done for our own 
foreign service if we wish our influence abroad to be at all com- 
mensurate with our greatness and prosperity at home. When 
will our government learn that a good consul is worth more 
than a man-of-war, and that an able minister is of more value 
than a whole fleet of iron-clads? To secure good consuls and 
able ministers we must choose them from a body of men who 
have been picked and trained. 

In effecting these reforms, Mr. Jenckes's (of Rhode Island) bill 
might serve as an entering wedge. It would secure the acknowl- 
edgment of the principle certainly not alarmingly revolution- 
ary that places should go by merit. But it does not go far 
enough. " It does not," he says, " touch places which are to be 
filled with the advice and consent of the Senate. It would not 
in the least interfere with the scramble for office which is going 
on at the other end of the Avenue, or which fills with anxious 
crowds the corridors of the other wing of the Capitol. This 
measure, it should be remembered, deals only with the inferior 


officers, whose appointment is made by the President alone, or 
by the heads of departments." 

But what danger is there of infringing on the rights of the 
Senate? Is there anything that would aid the Senate so much 
in giving their "advice and consent" as the knowledge that the 
applicants for confirmation had proved their competence before 
a Board of Examiners? And would not the knowledge of the 
same fact lighten the burdens of the President, and relieve him 
of much of the difficulty which he now experiences in the selec- 
tion of qualified men? Such an arrangement would not take 
away the power of executive appointment, but regulate its exer- 
cise. Nor would it, if applied to elective offices, interfere with 
the people's freedom of choice further than to insure that the 
candidates should be men of suitable qualifications. It may not 
be easy to prescribe rules for that popular sovereignty which 
follows only its own sweet will, but it is humiliating to reflect 
that our " mandarins" are so far from being the most intellectual 
class of the community. 




THE interest of the inquiry on which we are about to enter is 
based on the assumption that differences of national character 
are mainly due to the influence of education. This we conceive 

* This paper was first published in 1877 by the United States Bureau of 
Education. The following letter of the late Mr. Avery, United States Min- 
ister to China, may serve to explain its origin : 

" To the Commissioner of Education. 

PEKING, May 28, 1875. ) 

" SIR, Before my departure for China, I received from you a request to 
secure for use by your Bureau an accurate and full statement of the meth- 
ods of education in China, and 'the relation of the methods to the failure 
of their civilization.' 

" On my arrival at Peking, bearing your request in mind, I was confirmed 
in the opinion entertained before, that to no one else could I apply for the 
information desired with so much propriety as to Dr. W. A. P. Martin, our 
fellow-countryman, president of the Imperial College for Western Science 
at Peking, whose long residence in China, scholarly knowledge of Chinese 
literature, and familiar acquaintance with native methods of education must 
be well known to you. 

" Dr. Martin, at my solicitation, agreed to furnish a paper on the subject 
you indicated, which I have just received from his hands, and now forward 
to you through the courtesy of the State Department. I scarcely need add 
that you will find it alike interesting and valuable. In connection with the 
subject of Dr. Martin's paper, permit me to call your attention to a despatch 
written by S. Wells Williams, then charg6 d'affaires at this legation, to the 
State Department, under date of August 26, 1869, numbered 58, and referrini; 
to the enormous difficulties of the Chinese language, whether spoken or 
written, as one of the principal obstacles to the progress of this people. 



to be true, except in extreme cases, such as those of the inhab- 
itants of torrid or frigid regions, where everything succumbs to 
the tyranny of physical forces. In such situations climate shapes 
education, as, according to Montesquieu, it determines morals 
and dictates laws. But in milder latitudes the difference of 
physical surroundings is an almost inappreciable element in the 
formation of character in comparison with influences of an in- 
tellectual and moral kind. Much, for example, is said about the 
inspiration of mountain scenery an inspiration felt most sensi- 
bly, if not most effectively, by those who see the mountains least 
frequently ; but, as John Foster remarks, the character of a lad 
brought up at the foot of the Alps is a thousandfold more af- 
fected by the companions with whom he associates than by the 
mountains that rear their heads above his dwelling. 

The peculiar character of the Chinese for they have a char- 
acter which is one and distinct is not to be accounted for by 
their residence in great plains, for half the empire is mountain- 
ous. Neither is it to be ascribed to their rice diet, as rice is a 
luxury in which few of the northern population are able to in- 
dulge. Still less is it to be referred to the influence of climate, 
for they spread over a broad belt in their own country, emigrate 
in all directions, and flourish in every zone. It is not even ex- 
plained by the unity and persistency of an original type, for in 
their earlier career they absorbed and assimilated several other 
races, while history shows that at different epochs their own 
character has undergone remarkable changes. The true secret 
of this phenomenon is the presence of an agency which, under 
our own eyes, has shown itself sufficiently powerful to transform 
the turbulent nomadic Manchu into the most Chinese of the in- 

Dr. Martin touches on this point, but it did not enter into his object to en- 
large upon it ' I am, sir, 

" Your obedient servant, 


" Commissioner of Education.^ 


habitants of the Middle Kingdom. The general name for that 
agency, which includes a thousand elements, is education. It is 
education that has imparted a uniform stamp to the Chinese 
under every variety of physical condition ; just as the successive 
sheets of paper applied to an engraving bring away, substan- 
tially, the same impression, notwithstanding differences in the 
quality of the material. 

In this wide sense we shall not attempt to treat the subject, 
though it may not be out of 'place to remark that the Chinese 
themselves employ a word which answers to education with a 
similar latitude. They say, for instance, that the education of a 
child begins before its birth. The women of ancient times, say 
they, in every movement had regard to its effect on the character 
of their offspring. This they denominate kiao, reminding us of 
what Goethe tells us in his autobiography of certain antecedents 
which had their effect in imparting to him 

" That concord of harmonious powers 
Which forms the soul of happiness." 

All this, whatever its value, belongs to physical discipline. We 
shall not go so far back in the history of our typical Chinese, 
but, confining ourselves strictly to the department of intellectual 
influences, take him at the time when the young idea first begins 
to shoot, and trace him through the several stages of his devel- 
opment until he emerges a full-fledged Academician.* 


With us the family is the first school. Not only is it here that 
we make the most important of our linguistic acquirements, but 

* For an account of the Hanlin or Imperial Academy, see the North 
American Review for July, 1874, where much may be found to supplement 
the present paper. The same periodical (some time in 1870) contains an 
article by the present writer on Civil-service Competitive Examinations in 
China. (I leave this note in its original form, though the papers referred 
to may now be found between the covers of the present volume.) 


with parents who are themselves cultivated there is generally a 
persistent effort to stimulate the mental growth of their offspring, 
to develop reason, form taste, and invigorate the memory. 

In many instances parental vanity applies a spur where the 
curb ought to be employed, and a sickly precocity is the result ; 
but in general a judicious stimulus addressed to the mind is no 
detriment to the body, and it is doubtless to the difference of 
domestic training rather than to race that we are to ascribe the 
early awaking of the mental potvers of European children as 
compared with those of China. The Chinese have, it is true, 
their stories of infant precocity their Barretiers and Chatter- 
tons. They tell of Li-muh, who, at the age of seven, was thought 
worthy of the degree of tsin-shi, or the literary doctorate, and of 
Hie-tsin, the " divine child," who, at the age of ten, composed a 
volume of poems, still in use as a juvenile text-book. But these 
are not merely exceptions; they are exceptions of rarer occur- 
rence than among us. 

The generality of Chinese children do not get their hands and 
feet so soon as ours, because, in the first months of their exist- 
ence, they are tightly swathed and afterwards overloaded with 
cumbrous garments. The reason for their tardier mental devel- 
opment is quite analogous. European children exhibit more 
thought at five than Chinese children at twice that age. This is 
not a partial judgment, nor is the fact to be accounted for by a 
difference of race ; for in mental capacity the Chinese are, in my 
opinion, not inferior to the "most favored nation." Deprive 
our nurseries of those speaking pictures that say so much to the 
infant eye ; of infant poems, such as those of Watts and Bar- 
bauld ; of the sweet music that impresses those poems on the 
infant mind ; more than all, take away those Bible stories and 
scraps of history which excite a thirst for the books that con- 
tain them, and what a check upon mental growth, what a deduc- 
tion from the happiness of childhood ! With us the dawn of 
knowledge precedes the use of books, as the rays of morning, 


refracted by the atmosphere and glowing with rosy hues, antici- 
pate the rising of the sun. In China there is no such accommo- 
dating medium, no such blushing aurora. The language of the 
fireside is not the language of the books. 

Mothers and nurses are not taught to read ; nor are fathers 
less inclined than with us to leave the work of instruction to be 
begun by the professional teacher. This they are the more dis- 
posed to do, as an ancient maxim, sanctioned by classic authority, 
prohibits a parent being the instructor of his own children ; still 
some fathers, yielding to better instincts, do take a pride in 
teaching their infant sons ; and some mothers, whose exceptional 
culture makes them shine like stars in the night of female igno- 
rance, have imparted to their children the first impulse in a 
literary career. 

How many of those who have obtained seats in the literary 
Olympus were favored with such early advantages it is impossi- 
ble to ascertain. That the number is considerable, we cannot 
doubt. We remember hearing of two scholars in Chekiang who 
were not only taught the mechanical art of writing, but the 
higher art of composition, by an educated mother, both of them 
winning the honors of the Academy. 

As another instance of the same kind, the Memoirs of the 
Academy embalm the memory of such a noble mother along 
with the name of her illustrious son, the Emperor Kienlung, 
with vermilion pencil, celebrating the talents of the one and the 
virtues of the other. 

Dropping the " meed of a melodious tear" on the grave of an 
eminent literary servant, Chien-chen-keun, a member of the 
Hanlin, the Emperor says, " He drew his learning from a hid- 
den source, a virtuous mother imparting to him her classic 
lore." In the prose obituary prefixed to the verses, his Majesty 
says, "Chien's mother, Lady Chen, was skilled in ornamental 
writing. In his boyhood it was she who inspired and directed 
his studies. He had a painting which represented his mother 


holding a distaff and at the same time explaining to him the 
classic page. I admired it, and inscribed on it a complimentary 
verse." A graceful tribute from an exalted hand, worth more, 
in the estimation of the Chinese, than all the marble or granite 
that might be heaped upon her sepulchre. 


In general, however, a Chinese home is not a hot-bed for the 
development of mind. Nature is left to take her own time, and 
the child vegetates until he completes his seventh or eighth 
year. The almanac is then consulted, and a lucky day chosen 
for inducting the lad into a life of study. Clad in festal robe, 
with tasselled cap, and looking a mandarin in small, he sets out 
for the village school, his face beaming with the happy assur- 
ance that all the stars are shedding kindly influence, and his 
friends predicting that he will end his career in the Imperial 
Academy. On entering the room, he performs two acts of wor- 
ship : the first is to prostrate himself before a picture of the 
Great Sage, who is venerated as the fountain of wisdom, but is 
not supposed to exercise over his votaries anything like a tutelar 
supervision. The second is to salute with the same forms, and 
almost equal reverence, the teacher who is to guide his inex- 
perienced feet in the pathway to knowledge. In no country is 
the office of teacher more revered. Not only is the living in- 
structor saluted with forms of profoundest respect, but the very 
name of teacher, taken in the abstract, is an object of almost 
idolatrous homage. On certain occasions it is inscribed on a 
tablet in connection with the characters for heaven, earth, prince, 
and parents, as one of the five chief objects of veneration, and 
worshipped with solemn rites. This is a relic of the primitive 
period, when books were few and the student dependent for 
everything on the oral teaching of his sapient master. In those 
days, in Eastern as well as Western Asia and Greece, schools 
were peripatetic, or (as Jeremy Taylor says of the Church in his 


time) ambulatory. Disciples were wont to attend their master 
by day and night, and follow him on his peregrinations from 
State to State, in order to catch and treasure up his most casual 

As to the pursuit of knowledge, they were at a great disad- 
vantage compared with modern students, whose libraries con- 
tain books by the thousand, while their living teachers are count- 
ed by the score. Yet the student life of those days was not 
without its compensating circumstances. Practical morality, 
the formation of character, was the great object, intellectual dis- 
cipline being deemed subordinate ; and in such a state of society 
physical culture was, of course, not neglected. The personal 
character of the teacher made a profound impression on his 
pupils, inspiring them with ardor in the pursuit of virtue ; while 
the necessity of learning by question and answer excited a spirit 
of inquiry and favored originality of thought. But now all this 
is changed, and the names and forms continue without the 

A man who never had a dozen thoughts in all his life sits in 
the seat of the philosophers and receives with solemn ceremony 
the homage of his disciples. And why not ? For every step in 
the process of teaching is fixed by unalterable usage. So much 
is this the case that in describing one school I describe all, and 
in tracing the steps of one student I point out the course of all ; 
for in China there are no new methods or short roads. 

In other countries, a teacher, even in the primary course, 
finds room for tact and originality. In those who dislike study 
a love of it is to be inspired by making " knowledge pleasant to 
the taste," and the dull apprehension is to be awakened by 
striking and apt illustrations ; while, to the eager and industri- 
ous, "steps to Parnassus" are, if not made easy, at least to be 
pointed out so clearly that they shall waste no strength in climb- 
ing by wrong paths. In China there is nothing of this. The 
land of uniformity, all processes in arts and letters are as much 


fixed by universal custom as is the cut of their garments or the 
mode of wearing their hair. The pupils all tread the path trod- 
den by their ancestors of a thousand years ago, nor has it grown 
smoother by the attrition of so many feet. 


The undergraduate course may be divided into three stages, 
in each of which there are two leading studies : 

In the first, the occupations of the student are committing to 
memory (not reading) the canonical books and writing ap in- 
finitude of diversely formed characters as a manual exercise. 

In the second, they are the translation of his text-books (i. e. 
reading) and lessons in composition. 

In the third, they are belles-lettres and the composition of 

Nothing could be more dreary than the labors of the first 
stage. The pupil comes to school, as one of his books tells 
him, " a rough gem, that requires grinding ;" but the process is 
slow and painful. His books are in a dead language, for in 
every part of the Empire the style of literary composition is so 
far removed from that of the vernacular speech that books, 
when read aloud, are unintelligible even to the ear of the 
educated, and the sounds of their characters convey absolutely 
no meaning to the mind of a beginner. Nor, as a general 
thing, is any effort made to give them life by imparting glimpses 
of their signification. The whole of this first stage is a dead 
lift of memory, unalleviated by the exercise of any other facul- 
ty. It is something like what we should have in our Western 
schools if our youth were restricted to the study of Latin as 
their sole occupation, and required to stow away in their mem- 
ory the contents of the principal classics before learning a 
word of their meaning. 

The whole of the Four Books and the greater part of the Five 
Classics are usually gone through in this manner, four or five 


years being allotted to the cheerless task. During all this time 
the mind has not been enriched by a single idea. To get words 
at the tongue's end and characters at the pencil's point is the 
sole object of this initial discipline. It would seem, indeed, as 
if the wise ancients who devised it had dreaded nothing so 
much as early development, and, like prudent horticulturists, re- 
sorted to this method for the purpose of heaping snow and ice 
around the roots of the young plant to guard against its pre- 
mature blossoming. All the arrangements of the system are 
admirably adapted to form a safeguard against precocity. Even 
the stimulus of companionship in study is usually denied, the 
advantages resulting from the formation of classes being as lit- 
tle appreciated as those of other labor-saving machinery. Each 
pupil reads and writes alone, the penalty for failure being so 
many blows with the ferule or kneeling for so many minutes on 
the rough brick pavement which serves for a floor. 

At this period fear is the strongest motive addressed to the 
mind of the scholar ; nor is it easy to say how large a share this 
stern discipline has in giving him his first lesson in political 
duty viz., that of unquestioning submission and in rendering 
him cringing and pliant towards official superiors. Those sallies 
of innocent humor and venial mischief so common in Western 
schools are rarely witnessed in China. 

A practical joke in which the scholars indulged at the ex- 
pense of their teacher I have seen represented in a picture, but 
never in real life. The picture, the most graphic I ever saw 
from a Chinese pencil, adorns the walls of a monastery at the 
Western Hills, near Peking. It represents a village school, the 
master asleep in his chair and the pupils playing various pranks, 
the least of which, if the tyrant should happen to awake, would 
bring down his terrible baton. But, notwithstanding the danger 
to which they expose themselves, two of the young unterrified 
stand behind the throne, threatening to awake the sleeper by 
tickling his ear with the tail of a scorpion. 


So foreign, indeed, is this scene from the habits of Chinese 
schoolboys that I feel compelled to take it in a mystic rather 
than a literal signification. The master is reason, the boys are 
the passions, and the scorpion conscience. If passion gets at 
the ear of the soul while reason sleeps, the stings of conscience 
are sure to follow those 

" Pangs that pay joy's spendthrift thrill 
With bitter usury." 

Thus understood, it conveys a moral alike worthy of Christian 
or Buddhist ethics. 

Severity is accounted the first virtue in a pedagogue ; and its 
opposite is not kindness, but negligence. In family schools, 
where the teacher is well watched, he is reasonably diligent and 
sufficiently severe to satisfy the most exacting of his patrons. 
In others, and particularly in charity - schools, the portrait of 
Squeers in Nicholas Nickleby would be no caricature. With 
modifications and improvements in the curriculum, a teacher has 
nothing to do. His business is to keep the mill going, and the 
time-honored argument a posteriori is the only persuasion he 
cares to appeal to. 

This arctic winter of monotonous toil once passed, a more 
auspicious season dawns on the youthful understanding. The 
key of the Cabala which he has been so long and so blindly ac- 
quiring is put into his hands. He is initiated in the translation 
and exposition of those sacred books which he had previously 
stored away in his memory, as if apprehensive lest another ty- 
rant of Tsin might attempt their destruction. The light, how- 
ever, is let in but sparingly, as it were, through chinks and rifts 
in the long dark passage. A simple^haracter here and there is 
explained, and then, it may be after the lapse of a year or two, 
the teacher proceeds to the explication of entire sentences. Now 
for the first time the mind of the student begins to take in the 
thoughts of those he has been taught to regard as the oracles of 
wisdom. His dormant faculties wake into sudden life, and, as 


it would seem, unfold the more rapidly in consequence of their 
protracted hibernation. To him it is like 

" The glorious hour when spring goes forth 
O'er the bleak mountains of the shadowy north, 
And with one radiant glance, one magic breath, 
Wakes all things lovely from the sleep of death." 

The value of this exercise can hardly be overestimated. When 
judiciously employed, it does for the Chinese what translation 
into and out of the dead languages of the West does for us. It 
calls into play memory, judgment, taste, and gives him a com- 
mand of his own vernacular which, it is safe to assert, he would 
never acquire in any other way. Yet even here I am not able 
to bestow unqualified commendation. This portion of the course 
is rendered too easy ; as much too easy as the preceding is too 
difficult. Instead of requiring a lad, dictionary in hand, to quar- 
ry out the meaning of his author, the teacher reads the lesson 
for him, and demands of him nothing more than a faithful re- 
production of that which he has received ; memory again, sheer 
memory ! Desirable as this method might be for beginners, 
when continued, as the Chinese do through the whole course, it 
has the inevitable effect of impairing independence of judgment 
and fertility of invention qualities for which Chinese scholars 
are hy no means remarkable, and for the deficiency of which 
they are, no doubt, indebted to this error of schoolroom disci- 

Simultaneously with translation the student is initiated in the 
art of composition an art which, in any language, yields to 
nothing but practice. In Chinese it is beset with difficulties of 
a peculiar kind. In the 'majority of cultivated languages the 
syntax is governed by rules, while inflections, like mortise and 
tenon, facilitate the structure of the sentence. 

Not so in this most primitive form of human speech. Verbs 
and nouns are undistinguished by any difference of form, the 
verb having no voice, mood, or tense, and the noun neither gen- 


der, number, nor person. Collocation is ever)* thing ; it creates 
the parts of speech and determines the signification of char- 
acters. The very simplicity of the linguistic structure thus 
proves a source of difficulty, preventing the formation of any 
such systems of grammatical rules as abound in most inflected 
languages, and throwing the burden of acquisition on the imi- 
tative faculty ; the problem being, not the erection of a fabric 
from parts which are adjusted and marked, but the building of 
an arch with cobble-stones. 

If these uniform, unclassified atoms were indifferent to posi- 
tion, the labor of arrangement would be nothing, and style im- 
possible. But most of them appear to be endowed with a kind 
of mysterious polarity which controls their collocation, and ren- 
ders them incapable of companionship except with certain char- 
acters, the choice of which would seem to be altogether arbitra- 
ry. The origin of this peculiarity is not difficult to discover. 
In this, as in other things among the Chinese, usage has become 
law. Combinations which were accidental or optional with the 
model writers of antiquity, and even their errors, have, to their 
imitative posterity, become the jus et norma loquendi. Free to 
move upon each other when the language was young and in a 
fluid state, its elements have now become crystallized into in- 
variable forms. To master this pre-established harmony with- 
out the aid of rules is the fruit of practice and the labor of 

The first step in composition is the yoking together of double 
characters. The second is the reduplication of these binary 
compounds and the construction of parallels an idea which 
runs so completely through the whole of Chinese literature that 
the mind of the student requires to be imbued with it at the 
very outset. This is the way he begins : The teacher writes 
" Wind blows," the pupil adds " Rain falls ;" the teacher writes 
" Rivers are long," the pupil adds " Seas are deep " or " Moun- 
tains are high," etc. 


From the simple subject and predicate, which in their rude 
grammar they describe as " dead " and " living " characters, the 
teacher conducts his pupil to more complex forms, in which 
qualifying words and phrases are introduced. He gives as a 
model some such phrase as "The Emperor's grace is vast as 
heaven and earth," and the lad matches it by " The sovereign's 
favor is profound as lake and sea." These couplets often con- 
tain two propositions in each member, accompanied by all the 
usual modifying terms ; and so exact is the symmetry required 
by the rules of the art that not only must noun, verb, adjective, 
and particle respond to ^ach other with scrupulous exactness, 
but the very tones of the characters are adjusted to each other 
with the precision of music. 

Begun with the first strokes of his untaught pencil, the stu- 
dent, whatever his proficiency, never gets beyond the construc- 
tion of parallels. When he becomes a member of the Institute 
or a minister of the Imperial Cabinet, at classic festivals and 
social entertainments the composition of impromptu couplets, 
formed on the old model, constitutes a favorite pastime. Re- 
flecting a poetic image from every syllable, or concealing the 
keen point of a cutting epigram, they afford a fine vehicle for 
sallies of wit; and poetical contests such as that of Meliboeus 
and Menalcas are in China matters of daily occurrence. If a 
present is to be given, on the occasion of a marriage, a birthday, 
or any other remarkable occasion, nothing is deemed so elegant 
or acceptable as a pair of scrolls inscribed with a complimentary 

When the novice is sufficiently exercised in the "parallels" 
for the idea of symmetry to have become an instinct, he is per- 
mitted to advance to other species of composition which afford 
freer scope for his faculties. Such are the shotiah, in which a 
single thought is expanded in simple language; the lun, the for- 
mal discussion of a subject more or less extended, and episth-s 
addressed to imaginary persons and adapted to all conceivable 


circumstances. In these last, the forms of the " complete letter- 
writer " are copied with too much servility ; but in the other 
two, substance being deemed of more consequence than form, 
the new-fledged thought is permitted to essay its powers and to 
expatiate with but little restraint. 

In'the third stage, composition is the leading object, reading 
being wholly subsidiary. It takes, for the most part, the arti- 
ficial form of verse, and of a kind of prose called wen-chang, 
which is, if possible, still more artificial. The reading required 
embraces mainly rhetorical models and sundry anthologies. His- 
tory is studied, but only that of China, and that only in com- 
pends ; not for its lessons of wisdom, but for the sake of the 
allusions with which it enables a writer to embellish classic es- 
says. The same may be said of other studies ; knowledge and 
mental discipline are at a discount, and style at. a premium. The 
goal of the long course, the flower and fruit of the whole sys- 
tem, is the wen-chang ; for this alone can insure success in the 
public examinations for the civil service, in which students be- 
gin to adventure soon after entering on the third stage of their 
preparatory course. 

The examinations we reserve for subsequent consideration, 
and in that connection we shall notice the wen-chang more at 
length. We may, however, remark in passing that to propose 
such an end as the permanent object of pursuit must of neces- 
sity have the effect of rendering education superficial. In our 
own xmiversities surface is aimed at rather than depth ; but 
what, we may ask, besides an empty glitter would remain if 
none of our students aspired to anything better than to become 
popular newspaper-writers ? Yet successful essayists and penny- 
a-liners require as a preparation for their functions a substra- 
tum of solid information. They have to exert themselves to 
keep abreast of an age in which great facts and great thoughts 
vibrate instantaneously throughout a hemisphere. But the idea 
of progressive knowledge is alien to the nature of the wen-chang. 


A juster parallel for the intense and fruitless concentration of 
energy on this species of composition is the passion for Latin 
verse which was dominant in our halls of learning until de- 
throned by the rise of modern science. 


The division of the undergraduate course into the three stages 
which we have described gives rise to three classes of schools: 
the primary, in which little is attended to beyond memoriter 
recitation and imitative chirography ; the middle, in which the 
canonical books are expounded; and the classical, in which 
composition is the leading exercise. Not unfrequently all three 
departments are embraced in one and the same school ; and still 
more frequently the single department professed is so neglected 
as to render it utterly abortive for any useful purpose. This, as 
we have elsewhere intimated, is particularly the case with what 
are called public schools. National schools there are none, with 
the exception of those at the capital for the education of the 
Banncrmeri, originally established on a liberal scale, but now so 
neglected that they can scarcely be reckoned among existing 

A further exception may be made in favor of schools opened 
in various places by provincial officers for special purposes ; but 
it is still true that China has nothing approaching to a system 
of common-schools designed to diffuse among the masses the 
blessings of a popular education. Indeed, education is system- 
atically left to private enterprise and public charity ; the gov- 
ernment contenting itself with gathering the choicest fruits and 
encouraging production by suitable rewards. A government 
that does this cannot be accused of neglecting the interests of 
education, though the beneficial influence of such patronage sel- 
dom penetrates to the lower strata of society. 

Even higher institutions, those that bear the name of colleges, 
are, for the most part, left to shift for themselves on the same 


principle. Snch colleges differ little from schools of the middle 
and higher class, except in the number of professors and stu- 
dents ; the professors, however numerous, teaching nothing but 
the Chinese language, and the students, however long they may 
remain in the institution, studying nothing but the Chinese lan- 
guage*. Colleges in the modern sense, as institutions in which the 
several sciences are taught by men who are specially expert, are, 
as yet, almost unknown. But there is reason to believe that the 
government will soon perceive the necessity of supplying its peo- 
ple with the means of a higher, broader culture than they can 
derive from the grammar and rhetoric of their own language. 

In establishing an.l contributing to the support of schools, 
the gentry are exceedingly liberal ; but they are not always 
careful to see that their schools are conducted in an efficient 
manner. In China nothing flourishes without the stimulus of 
private interest. Accordingly, all who can afford to do so en- 
deavor to employ private instructors for their own families; 
and where a single family is unable to meet the expense, two or 
three of the same clan or family name are accustomed to club 
together for that object. 

Efforts for the promotion of education are specially encour- 
aged by enlightened magistrates. Recently, over three hundred 
new schools were reported as opened in one department of the 
Province of Canton as the result of official influence, but not at 
government expense. The Emperor, too, has a way of bringing 
his influence to bear on this object without drawing a farthing 
from his exchequer. I shall mention three instances by way of 

Last year, in Shantung, a man of literary standing contributed 
four acres of ground for the establishment of a village school. 
The governor recommended him to the notice of the Emperor, 
and his Majesty conferred on him the titular rank of professor 
in the Kwotszekien, or Confucian College. 

Three or four years ago, in the Province of Ilupeh, a retired 


officer of the grade of Tautai, or intendant of circuit, contrib- 
uted twenty thousand taels for the endowment of a college at 
Wuchang. The Viceroy Li-Han-Chang reporting to the throne 
this act of munificence, the Chinese Peabody was rewarded by 
the privilege of wearing a red button instead of a blue one, and 
inscribing on his card the title of provincial judge. 

The third instance is that of a college in Kwei-Lin-Foo, the 
capital of Quangsi. Falling into decay and ruin during the 
long years of the Taiping rebellion, the gentry, on the return 
of peace, raised contributions, repaired the building, and started 
it again in successful operation. The governor solicits on be- 
half of these public-spirited citizens some marks of the Imperial 
approbation ; and his Majesty sends them a laudatory inscrip- 
tion written by the elegant pencils of the Hanlin. 

But private effort, however stimulated, is utterly inadequate 
to the wants of the public. In Western countries the enormous 
exertions of religious societies, prompted as they are by pious 
zeal enhanced by sectarian rivalry, have always fallen short of 
the educational necessities of the masses. It is well understood 
that no system of schools can ever succeed in reaching all classes 
of the people unless it has its roots in the national revenue. 

In China, what with the unavoidable limitation of private ef- 
fort and the deplorable inefficiency of charity-schools, but a 
small fraction of the youth have the advantages of the most 
elementary education brought within their reach. 

I do not here speak of the almost total absence of schools 
for girls, for against these Chinese are principled. The govern- 
ment, having no demand for the services of women in official 
posts, makes no provision for their education ; and popular 
opinion regards reading and writing as dangerous arts in female 
hands. If a woman, however, by any chance, emerging from 
the shaded hemisphere to which social prejudices have consign- 
ed her (si qua fata aspera rumpat), vindicates for herself a po- 
sition among the historians, poets, or scholars of the land, she 



never fails to be greeted with even more than her proper share 
of public admiration. Such instances induce indulgent fathers 
now and then to cultivate the talents of a clever daughter, and 
occasionally neighborhood schools for the benefit of girls are 
to be met with ; but the Chinese people have yet to learn that 
the best provision they could make for the primary education 
of their sons would be to educate the mothers, and that the 
education of the mothers could not fail to improve the intel- 
lectual character of their offspring. But even for the more 
favored sex the facilities for obtaining an education are sadly 
deficient; only a small percentage of the youth attend school, 
and, owing to the absurd method which we have described, few 
of them advance far enough to be initiated into the mysteries 
of ideography. 

On this subject a false impression has gone abroad. We hear 
it asserted that " education is universal in China ; even coolies 
are taught to read and write." In one sense this is true, but not 
as we understand the terms " reading and writing." In the al- 
phabetical vernaculars of the West the ability to read and write 
implies the ability to express one's thoughts by the pen, and to 
grasp the thoughts of others when so expressed. In Chinese, and 
especially in the classical or book language, it implies nothing of 
the sort. A shopkeeper may be able to write the numbers and 
keep accounts without being able to write anything else ; and a 
lad who has attended school for several years will pronounce the 
characters of an ordinary book with faultless precision, yet not 
comprehend the meaning of a single sentence. Of those who can 
read understandingly (and nothing else ought to be called read- 
ing), the proportion is greater in towns than in rural districts. 
But striking an average, it does not, according to my observa- 
tion, exceed one in twenty for the male sex and one in ten thou- 
sand for the female rather a humiliating exhibit for a country 
which has maintained for centuries such a magnificent institution 
as the Hanlin Academy. 


With all due allowance for the want of statistical accuracy 
where no statistics are obtainable, compare this with the educa- 
tional statistics of the United States as given in the last census 
(that of 1870), Taking the country as a whole, the ratio of illit- 
eracy among persons over ten years of age is 1 in 6 ; taking the 
Northern States alone, the ratio is 57 to 1000, or about 1 in 18.* 


To some it may be a matter of surprise that popular education 
is left to take care of itself in a country where letters are held 
sacred and their inventor enrolled among the gods; to others it 
may appear equally strange that mental cultivation is so exten- 
sively diffused, considering the cumbrous vehicle employed for 
the transmission of thought and the enormous difficulty of get- 
ting command of it. Both phenomena find their solution in the 
fact that the government does not value education for its own 
sake, but regards it as means to an end. The great end is the re- 
pose of the State ; the instruments for securing it are able offi- 
cers, and education is the means for preparing them for the dis- 
charge of their duties. This done, an adequate supply of disci- 
plined agents once secured, the education of the people ceases to 
be an object. The repose of the State* one of the ancient philos- 
ophers tells us, might be assured by a process the opposite of 
popular education. " Fill the people's bellies and empty their 
minds ; cause that they neither know nor desire anything, and 
you have the secret of a tranquil government." Such is the ad- 
vice of Laukeun, which I am inclined to take as an utterance of 
Socratic irony rather than Machiavelian malice. So far from sub- 
scribing to this sentinjent in its literal import, the Chinese gov- 
ernment holds its officers responsible for the instruction of its 

* Report of the Commissioner of Education, 1871. 

t In this section certain words and phrases may remind the reader of the 
preceding article, but it is far from being a mere repetition. 


subjects in all matters of duty ; and in Chinese society the idea 
of instruction as the one thing needful has so wrought itself into 
the forms of speech as to become a wearisome cant. The red 
card that invites you to an entertainment solicits " instruction." 
When a friend meets you he apologizes for having so long ab- 
sented himself from your "instructions;" and in familiar con- 
versation, simple statements and opinions are often received as 
" precious instruction " by those who do not by any means ac- 
cept them. It is more to the point to add that one of the clas- 
sical books denounces it as the greatest of parental faults to 
bring up a child without instruction. This relates to the moral 
rather than to the intellectual side of education. The Chinese 
government does, nevertheless, encourage purely intellectual cult- 
ure ; and it does so in a most decided and effectual manner viz., 
by testing attainments and rewarding exertion. In the magnifi- 
cence of the scale on which it does this, it is unapproached by 
any other nation of the earth. 

Lord Mahon, in his History of England, speaking of the pat- 
ronage extended to learning in the period preceding Walpole, 
observes that " though the sovereign was never an Augustus, the 
minister was always a Maecenas. Newton became Master of the 
Mint ; Locke was Commissioner of Appeals ; Steele was Commis- 
sioner of Stamps ; Stepney, Prior, and Gray were employed in 
lucrative and important embassies; Addison was Secretary of 
State ; Tickell, Secretary in Ireland. Several rich sinecures were 
bestowed on Congreve and Rowe, on Hughes and Ambrose Phil- 
ips." And he goes on to show how the illiberality of succeed- 
ing reigns was atoned for by popular favor, the diffusion of 
knowledge enabling the people to become the patron of genius 
and learning. 

The Chinese practise none of these three methods. The Em- 
peror, less arbitrary than monarchs of the West, does not feel at 
liberty to reward an author by official appointments, and his 
minister has no power to do so. The inefficiency of popular pat- 


ronage is less to their credit, authors reaping oftentimes much 
honor and little emolument from their works. But it is some- 
thing to be able to add that all three are merged in a regulated 
State patronage, according to which the reward of literary merit 
is a law of the Empire and a right of the people. This brings us 
to speak of the examination system ; not, indeed, a fresh theme, 
but one which is not yet exhausted. Though not new to the Oc- 
cidental public, these examinations are not properly understood, 
for the opinion has been gaining ground that their value has 
been overrated, and that they are to be held responsible for all 
the shortcomings of Chinese intellectual culture. The truth is 
just the reverse. These shortcomings (I have not attempted to 
disguise them) are referable to other causes, while for something 
like two thousand years this system of literary competition has 
operated as a stimulating and conservative agency, to which are 
due not only the merits of the national education, such as it is, 
but its very existence. Nor has its political influence been less 
deep and beneficial. Essentially political in its aims, it has ef- 
fected far more in the way of political good than its authors 
ever ventured to anticipate. By enlarging the liberties of the 
people it contributes to the strength of the State ; and by afford- 
ing occupation to the restless and aspiring it tends to secure the 
tranquillity of the public. The safety-valve of society, it pro- 
vides a vent for that ambition and energy which would other- 
wise burst forth in civil strife and bloody revolution. 

These examinations are of two kinds, which we shall distin- 
guish as pre-official and post-official ; the former is the offspring 
of the latter, which it has outgrown and overshadowed. Their 
genesis is not difficult to trace ; and, paradoxical as it may ap- 
pear, these literary examinations date back to a period anterior 
to the rise of literature. The principles that lie at their founda- 
tion are found clearly expressed among the received maxims of 
government under the earliest of the historic dynasties. It was 
not, however, until the dynasties of the Tang and Sung (618- 


1120) that these examinations assumed substantially the form in 
which we now find them. Coming down from the past, with the 
accretions of many centuries, they have expanded into a system 
whose machinery is as complex as its proportions are enormous. 
Its ramifications extend to every district of the Empire; and it 
commands the services of district magistrates, prefects, and other 
civil functionaries up to governors and viceroys. These are all 
auxiliary to the regular officers of the literary corporation. 

In each district there are two resident examiners with the title 
of professor, whose duty it is to keep a register of all competing 
students, and to exercise them from time to time in order to 
stimulate their efforts and keep them in preparation for the 
higher examinations in which degrees are conferred. In each 
province there is one chancellor or superintendent of instruction, 
who holds office for three years, and is required to visit every 
district and hold the customary examinations within that time, 
conferring the first degree on a certain percentage of the candi- 
dates. There are, moreover, two special examiners for each 
province, generally members of the Hanlin, deputed from the 
capital to conduct the great triennial examination and confer the 
second degree. 

The regular degrees are three : 

First, Siu-tsai, or " Budding talent." 

Second, Chu-jin, or " Deserving of promotion." 

Third, Tsin-shi, or " Fit for office." 

To which may be added as a fourth degree the Hanlin, or 
member of the " Forest of Pencils." The first of these is some- 
times compared to the degree of B.A., conferred by colleges and 
universities ; the second to M.A. ; and the third to D.C.L. or 
LL.D. The last is accurately described by membership in the 
Imperial Academy ; always bearing in mind how much a Chi- 
nese academy must differ from a similar institution in the West. 
But so faint is the analogy which the other degrees bear to the 
literary degrees of Western lands that the interchange of terms 


is sure to lead to misconceptions. Chinese degrees represent tal- 
ent, not knowledge ; they are conferred by the State, without the 
intervention of school or college ; they carry with them the priv- 
ileges of official rank ; and they are bestowed on no more than 
a very small percentage of those who engage in competition. 
With us, on the contrary, they give no official standing; they 
attest, where they mean anything, acquirements rather than abil- 
ity ; and the number of those who are " plucked " is usually 
small in comparison with those who are allowed to " pass." But, 
after all, the new-fledged bachelor of an Occidental college, his 
head crammed with the outlines of universal knowledge, answers 
quite as nearly to the sprightly siu-tsai, 

" Whose soul proud science never taught to stray 
Far as the solar walk or Milky Way," 

as does a Western general to the chief of an undisciplined horde 
of so-called soldiers. 

The following report of Panszelien, Chancellor of the Province 
of Shantung, though somewhat vague, will give us an idea of the 
official duties of the chief examiner and the spirit in which he 
professes to discharge them : 

" Your Majesty's servant," says the chancellor, " has guarded 
the seal of office with the utmost vigilance. In every instance 
where frauds were detected he has handed the offender over to 
the proper authorities for punishment. In re-examining the suc- 
cessful, whenever their handwriting disagreed with that of their 
previous performances, he has at once expelled them from the 
hall, without granting a particle of indulgence. He everywhere 
exhorted the students to aim at the cultivation of a high moral 
character. In judging of the merit of compositions, he followed 
reason and the established rules. At the close of each examina- 
tion he addressed the students face to face, exhorting them not 
to walk in ways of vanity, nor to concern themselves with things 
foreign to their vocation, but to uphold the credit of scholarship 


and to seek to maintain or retrieve the literary reputation of 
their several districts. Besides these occupations, your servant, 
in passing from place to place, observed that the snow has every- 
where exercised a reviving influence ; the young wheat is begin- 
ning to shoot up ; the people are perfectly quiet and well dis- 
posed ; the price of provisions is moderate ; and those who suf- 
fered from the recent floods are gradually returning to their 
forsaken homes. For literary culture, Hincheu stands pre-emi- 
nent, while Tsaocheu is equally so in military matters." 

This is the whole report, with the exception of certain stereo- 
typed phrases, employed to open and conclude such documents, 
and a barren catalogue of places and dates. It contains no sta- 
tistical facts, no statement of the number of candidates, nor the 
proportion passed ; indeed, no information of any kind, except 
that conveyed in a chance allusion in the closing sentence. 

From this we learn that the chancellor is held responsible for 
examinations in the military art; and it might be inferred that 
he reviews the troops and gauges the attainments of the cadets 
in military history, engineering, tactics, etc. ; but nothing of the 
kind : he sees them draw the bow, hurl the discus, and go through 
various manoeuvres with spear and shield, which have no longer 
a place in civilized warfare. 

The first degree only is conferred by the provincial chancellor, 
and the happy recipients, fifteen or twenty in each department, 
or one per cent, of the candidates, are decorated with the insignia 
of rank and admitted to the ground-floor of the nine-storied pa- 
goda. The trial for the second degree is held in the capital of 
each province, by special commissioners, once in three years. It 
consists of three sessions of three days each, making nine days 
of almost continuous exertion a strain to the mental and phys- 
ical powers to which the infirm and aged frequently succumb. 

In addition to composition in prose and verse, the candidate 
is required to show his acquaintance with history (the history of 
China), philosophy, criticism, and various branches of archaeology. 


Again one per cent, are decorated ; but it is not until the more 
fortunate among them succeed in passing the metropolitan trien- 
nial that the meed of civil office is certainly bestowed. They 
are not, however, assigned to their respective offices until they 
have gone through two special examinations within the palace 
and in the presence of the Emperor. On this occasion the high- 
est on the list is honored with the title of chuang-yuen, or " lau- 
reate " a distinction so great that in the last reign it was not 
thought unbefitting the daughter of a ckuang-yuen to be- raised 
to the position of consort of the Son of Heaven. 

A score of the best are admitted to membership in the Acad- 
emy, two or three score are attached to it as pupils or probation- 
ers, and the rest drafted off to official posts in the capital or in 
the provinces, the humblest of which is supposed to compensate 
the occupant for a life of penury and toil. 

In conclusion, this noble institution the civil-service compet- 
itive system appears destined to play a conspicuous part in car- 
rying forward an intellectual movement the incipient stages of 
which are already visible. It has cherished the national educa- 
tion, such as it "is ; and if it has compelled the mind of China 
for ages past to grind in the mill of barren imitation, that is not 
the fault of the system, but its abuse. 

When the growing influence of Western science animates it 
with a new spirit, as it must do ere long, we shall see a million 
or more of patient students applying themselves to scientific 
studies with all the ardor that now characterizes their literary 

Six years ago the Viceroy of Fuhkien, now a member of the 
Imperial Cabinet, proposed the institution of a competition in 
mathematics. The suggestion was not adopted ; but a few days 
ago it was brought up in a new form, with the addition of the 
physical sciences, by Li-Hung-Chang, the famous governor of 
the metropolitan province. When adopted, as it must be, it will 
place the entire examination system on a new basis, and inaugu- 



rate an intellectual revolution whose extent and results it would 
be difficult to predict. 

In remodelling her national education, Japan has begun with 
her schools, and, however reluctant, China will be compelled to 
do the same. Thus far her efforts in that direction have been 
few and feeble, all that she has to show being a couple of schools 
at Canton and Shanghai, with forty students each ; three or four 
schools in connection with the arsenal at Fuhchow, with an ag- 
gregate of three hundred ; and in the capital an Imperial College 
for Western Science, with an attendance of about a hundred.* 

The proposed modifications in the civil-service examination 
system will not only invest each of these schools with a new im- 
portance, and give a higher value to every educated youth ; it 
will have the effect of creating for itself a system of schools and 
colleges on the basis of an existing organization. 

In every department and district there is a government school 
with two or more professors attached. The professors give no 
instruction, and the students only present themselves at stated 
times for examination. With the introduction of science these 
professors will become teachers, and each of these now deserted 
schools a centre of illumination. 

* The number of students in this institution is limited by the fact that 
they are on government pay and training for government service. The 
faculty of instruction consists of eleven professors, seven foreign and four 

A printing-office with six presses has lately been erected in connection 
with the college, with a view to the printing and circulation of scientific 
works. These are expected to be supplied in part by the professors and 
students, who are at present largely occupied with the translation of useful 



"HARTFORD, CONN., March 17, 1876. 

" DEAR SIR, Enclosed herewith I beg to hand you a brief report of our 
Chinese students in this country. I should have written it much earlier 
had not my time been well taken up .by other duties connected with the 
mission. Should you have any inquires to make about our students, do not 
hesitate to put them. 

" I remain, your obedient servant, 


" Hon. J. EATON, 
" Commissioner of Education, Washington, D. C" 

" Since the statement of January 7, 1873, respecting the arrival in Septem- 
ber, 1872, of the first detachment of Chinese government students in this 
country was published, we have had three more detachments of thirty stu- 
dents each, who came in succession in the years 1873,'74,'75 ; thus com- 
pleting the whole number of one hundred and twenty, as originally deter- 
mined upon by the Chinese government. These students are located in 
towns in Connecticut and Massachusetts all along the Connecticut valley. 

" The first detachment has been here about three years and a half, up to 
the 1st of March, 1876; the second detachment has been two years and a 
half ; the third, one year and a half ; and the fourth, only four months. 

" Most of the first detachment have joined classes in public schools and 
academies, and are now studying algebra, Greek, and Latin. 

"It is expected that about three years from now (March, 1876) they will 
be able to enter colleges and scientific schools. Those of the second and 
other detachments are still prosecuting their English studies, such as arith- 
metic, geography, grammar, and history. A few of them have exhibited de- 
cided taste for drawing and sketching. Specimens of these, together with 
manuscripts of written examinations in all their studies, were sent to Hon. 
B. G. Northrop for the Centennial Exhibition. These papers may be taken 

* These documents appended by the Commissioner of Education to the 
original publication are retained on account of their intrinsic interest. 

f Mr. Yung Wing is an alumnus of Yale College, and has received from 
his Alma Mater the honorary degree of LL.D. 


as fair evidences of their progress iii the different studies since they have 
been here. 

" Our students, ever since their arrival, have been favored with good health 
in a remarkable degree. With the exception of one case of death from 
scarlet fever in 18*75, they have, on the whole, enjoyed excellent health. Be- 
sides the one who died a year ago, we have dismissed four, thus leaving us 
only one hundred and fifteen students. 

" There have been some material changes in the mission during the past 
year. Mr. Chin Lan Pin, one of the commissioners, who returned to China 
more than a year ago, has been succeeded by Ngen Ngoh Liang; Mr. Kwong 
Ki Chin has taken the place of Mr. Chan Laisun, translator ; and Lin Yun 
Fong, a young tutor in Chinese, has been added to the staff of teachers." 



IT is not, perhaps, generally known that Peking contains an 
ancient university ; for, though certain buildings connected with 
it have been frequently described, the institution itself has been 
but little noticed. It gives, indeed, so few signs of life that it 
is not surprising it should be overlooked. And yet few of the 
institutions of this hoary Empire are invested with a deeper in- 
terest, as venerable relics of the past, and, at the same time, as 
mournful illustrations of the degenerate present. 

If a local situation be deemed an essential element of identity, 
this old university must yield the palm of age to many in Eu- 
rope, for in its present site it dates, at most, only from the Yuen, 
or Mongol, dynasty, in the beginning of the fourteenth century. 
But as an imperial institution, having a fixed organization and 
definite objects, it carries its history, or at least its pedigree, back 
to a period far anterior to the founding of the Great Wall. 

Among the Regulations of the House of Chow, which flour- 
ished a thousand years before the Christian era, we meet with it 
already in full-blown vigor, and under the identical name which 
it now bears, that of Kwotszekien, or "School for the Sons of the 
Empire." It was in its glory before the light of science dawned 
on Greece, and when Pythagoras and Plato were pumping their 
secrets from the priests of Heliopolis. And it still exists, but it 
is only an embodiment of " life in death :" its halls are tombs, 
and its officers living mummies. 

In the 13th Book of the Chowle (see Rites de Tcheou, traduc- 

* First published in 1871. 


tion par Edouard Bioi), we find the functions of the heads of 
the Kwotszekien laid down with a good deal of minuteness. 

The presidents were to admonish the Emperor of that which 
is good and just, and to instruct the Sons of the State in the 
"three constant virtues" and the "three practical duties" in 
other words, to give a course of lectures on moral philosophy. 
The vice-presidents were to reprove the Emperor for his faults 
(i. e. to perform the duty of official censors) and to discipline the 
Sons of the State in sciences and arts viz., in arithmetic, writ- 
ing, music, archery, horsemanship, and ritual ceremonies. The 
titles and offices of the subordinate instructors are not given in 
detail, but we are able to infer them with a good degree of cer- 
tainty from what we know of the organization as it now exists. 

The old curriculum is religiously adhered to, but greater lati- 
tude is given, as we shall have occasion to observe, to the term 
" Sons of the State." In the days of Chow, this meant the heir- 
apparent, princes of the blood, and children of the nobility. Un- 
der the Tatsing dynasty it signifies men of defective scholarship 
throughout the provinces, who purchase literary degrees, and 
more specifically certain indigent students of Peking, who are 
aided by the imperial bounty. 

The Kwotszekien is located in the northeastern angle of the 
Tartar city, with a temple of Confucius attached, which is one 
of the finest in the Empire. The main edifice (that of the tem- 
ple) consists of a single story of imposing height, with a porce- 
lain roof of tent-like curvature. It shelters no object of venera- 
tion beyond simple tablets of wood inscribed with the name of 
the sage and those of his most illustrious disciples. It contains 
no seats, as all comers are expected to stand or kneel in pres- 
ence of the Great Teacher. Neither does it boast anything in 
the way of artistic decoration, nor exhibit any trace of that 
neatness and taste which we look for in a sacred place. Per- 
haps its vast area is designedly left to dust and emptiness, in 
order that nothing may intervene to disturb the mind in the 


contemplation of a great name which receives the homage of a 

Gilded tablets, erected by various emperors the only orna- 
mental objects that meet the eye record the praises of Confu- 
cius ; one pronounces him the " culmination of the sages," an- 
other describes him as forming a " trinity with Heaven and 
Earth," and a third declares that " his holy soul was sent down 
from heaven." A grove of cedars, the chosen emblem of a fame 
that never fades, occupies a space in front of the temple, and 
some of the trees are huge with the growth of centuries. 

In an adjacent block or square stands a pavilion known as the 
"Imperial Lecture-room," because it is incumbent on each oc- 
cupant of the Dragon throne to go there at least once in his 
lifetime to hear a discourse on the nature and responsibilities of 
his office thus conforming to the letter of the Chowle, which 
makes it the duty of the officers of the university to administer 
reproof and exhortation to their sovereign,* and doing homage 
to the university by going in person to receive its instruction. 

A canal spanned by marble bridges encircles the pavilion, 
and arches of glittering porcelain, in excellent repair, adorn the 
grounds. But neither these nor the pavilion itself constitutes 
the chief attraction of the place. 

Under a long corridor which encloses the entire space may 
be seen as many as one hundred and eighty-two columns of 
massive granite, each inscribed with a portion of the canonical 
books. These are the "Stone Classics" the entire "Thirteen," 
which form the staple of a Chinese education, being here en- 
shrined in a material supposed to be imperishable. Among all 
the universities in the world, the Kwotszekien is unique in the 
possession of such a library. 

This is not, indeed, the only stone library extant another of 

* They still discharge these functions in writing, their memorials fre- 
quently appearing in the pages of the Peking Gazette. 


equal extent being found at Singanfu, the ancient capital of the 
Tangs. But that, too, was the property of the Kwotszekieu ten 
centuries ago, when Singan was the seat of empire. The 
"School for the Sons of the Empire" must needs follow the 
migrations of the court ; and that library, costly as it was, being 
too heavy for transportation, it was thought best to supply its 
place by the new edition which we have been describing. 

The use of this heavy literature is a matter for speculation, a 
question almost as difficult of solution as the design of the pyra- 
mids. Was it intended to supply the world with a standard 
text a safe channel through which the streams of wisdom 
might be transmitted pure and undefiled ? Or were their sacred 
books engraved on stone to secure them from any modern mad- 
man, who might take it into his head to emulate the Tyrant of 
Tsin, the burner of the books and builder of the Great Wall ? 
If the former was the object, it was useless, as paper editions, 
well executed and carefully preserved, would have answered the 
purpose equally well. If the latter, it was absurd, as granite, 
though fire-proof, is not indestructible ; and long before these 
columns were erected, the discovery of the art of printing had 
forever placed the depositories of wisdom beyond the reach of 
the barbarian's torch. It is characteristic of the Chinese to ask 
for no better reason than ancient custom. Their forefathers en- 
graved these classics on stone, and they must do the same. But 
whatever may have been the original design, the true light in 
which to regard these curious books is that of an impressive 
tribute to the sources of their civilization. 

I may mention here that the Rev. Dr. Williamson, on a visit 
to Singanfu, saw many persons engaged in taking " rubbings " 
from the stone classics of that city ; and he informs us that 
complete copies were sold at a very high rate. The popularity 
of the Singan tablets is accounted for by the flavor of antiquity 
which they possess, and especially by the style of the engraving, 
which is much admired or, more properly, the calligraphy which 


it reproduces. Those of Peking are not at all patronized by the 
printers, and yet if textual accuracy were the object, they ought, 
as a later edition, to be more highly prized than the others. A 
native cicerone whom I once questioned as to the object of these 
stones replied, with a naivete quite refreshing, that they were 
"set up for the amusement of visitors" an answer which I 
should have set to the credit of his ready wit, if he had not pro- 
ceeded to inform me that neither students nor editors ever came 
to consult the text, and that " rubbings " are never taken. 

In front of the temple stands a forest of columns of scarcely 
inferior interest. They are three hundred and twenty in num- 
ber, and contain the university roll of honor, a complete list of 
all who since the founding of the institution have attained to 
the dignity of the doctorate. Allow to each an average of two 
hundred names, and we have an army of doctors sixty thousand 
strong ! (By the doctorate I mean the third or highest degree.) 
All these received their investiture at the Kwotszekien, and, 
throwing themselves at the feet of its president, enrolled them- 
selves among the " Sons of the Empire." They were not, how- 
ever at least the most of them were not in any proper sense 
alumni of the Kwotszekien, having pursued their studies in 
private, and won their honors by public competition in the halls 
of the Civil-service Examining Board. 

This granite register goes back for nearly six hundred years ; 
but while intended to stimulate ambition and gratify pride, it 
reads to the new graduate a lesson of humility showing him 
how remorselessly time consigns all human honors to oblivion. 
The columns are quite exposed, and those that are more than 
a century old are so defaced by the weather as to be no longer 

If in the matter of conferring degrees the Kwotszekien " beats 
the world," it must be remembered that it enjoys the monopoly 
of the Empire so far as the doctorate is concerned. 

Besides these departments, intended mainly to commemorate 


the past, there is an immense area occupied by lecture-rooms, 
examination-halls, and lodging-apartments. But the visitor is 
liable to imagine that these, too, are consecrated to a monu- 
mental use so rarely is a student or a professor to be seen 
among them. Ordinarily they are as desolate as the halls of 
Baalbec or Palmyra. In fact, this great school for the " Sons of 
the Empire " has long ceased to be a seat of instruction, and 
degenerated into a mere appendage of the civil-service competi- 
tive examinations, on which it hangs as a dead weight, corrupt- 
ing and debasing instead of advancing the standard of national 

By an eld law, made for the purpose of enhancing the im- 
portance of this institution, the possession of a scholarship car- 
ries with it the privilege of wearing decorations which belong to 
the first degree, and of entering the lists to compete for the sec- 
ond. This naturally caused such scholarships to be eagerly 
sought for, and eventually had the effect of bringing them into 
market as available stock on which to raise funds for govern- 
ment use. A price was placed on them, and like the papal in- 
dulgences, they were vended throughout the Empire. 

Never so high as to be beyond the reach of aspiring poverty, 
their price has now descended to such a figure as to convert 
these honors into objects of contempt. In Peking it is twenty- 
three taels (about thirty dollars), but in the provinces they can 
be had for half that sum. Not long ago one of the censors ex- 
postulated with his Majesty on the subject of these sales. He 
expressed in strong language his disgust at the idea of clodhop- 
pers and muleteers appearing with the insignia of literary rank, 
and denounced in no measured terms the cheap sale of ranks 
and offices generally. Still and the fact is not a little curious 
it was not the principle of selling which he condemned, but 
that reckless degradation of prices which had the effect of spoil- 
ing the market. 

It is not our purpose to take up the lamentation of this pa- 


triotic censor, or to show how the opening of title and office 
brokeries lowers the credit and saps the influence of the govern- 
ment. And yet this entire traffic has a close relation to the 
subject in hand ; for, whatever rank or title may be the object 
of purchase, a university scholarship must of necessity be pur- 
chased along with it, as the root on which it is grafted. Accord- 
ingly the flood-gates of this fountain of honors are kept wide 
open, and a very deluge of diplomas issues from them. A year 
or two ago a hundred thousand were sent into the provinces at 
one time ! 

The scholars of this old institution accordingly outnumber 
those of Oxford or Paris in their palmiest days. But there are 
thousands of her adopted children who have never seen the 
walls of Peking, and thousands more within the precincts of the 
capital who have never entered her gates. 

Those who are too impatient to wait the slow results of com- 
petition in their native districts are accustomed to seek at the 
university the requisite qualifications for competing for the 
higher degrees. These qualifications are not difficult of attain- 
ment the payment of a trifling fee and submission to a formal 
examination being all that is required. 

For a few weeks previous to the great triennial examinations, 
the lodging-houses of the university are filled with students who 
are " cramming" for the occasion. At other times they present 
the aspect of a deserted village. 

On the accession of the Manchu Tartars two centuries ago 
(1644), eight large schools or colleges were established for the 
benefit of the eight tribes or banners into which the Tartars of 
Peking are divided. They were projected on a liberal scale, and 
affiliated to the university, their special object being to promote 
among the rude invaders a knowledge of Chinese letters and civ- 
ilization. Each was provided with a staff of five professors, and 
had an attendance of one hundred and five pupils, who were en- 
couraged by a monthly stipend and regarded as in training for 


the public service. The central luminary and its satellites pre- 
sented at that time a brilliant and imposing spectacle. 

At present, however, the system is practically abandoned, the 
college buildings have fallen to ruin, and not one of them is 
open for the instruction of youth. Nothing remains as a remi- 
niscence of the past but a sham examination, which is held from 
time to time to enable the professors and students to draw their 
pay. Some ten years ago an effort was made to resuscitate these 
government schools by requiring attendance once in three days, 
but such an outcry was raised against it that it soon fell through. 
Those who cared to learn could learn better at home, and those 
who did not care for learning would choose to dispense with 
their pensions rather than take the trouble of attending so fre- 
quently. So the students remain at home, and the professors 
enjoy their sinecures, no serious duty to perform, except- 
ing the worship of Confucius. The presidents of the university 
are even designated by a title which signifies libation-pourers, 
indicating that this empty ceremony is regarded as their highest 
function. Twice a month (viz., at the new and full moon) all 
the professors are required to assemble in official robes, and per- 
form nine prostrations on the flag-stones, at a respectful distance, 
in front of the temple. 

But even this duty a pliable conscience enables them to allevi- 
ate by performing it by proxy, one member only of each college 
appearing for the rest, and after the ceremony inscribing the 
names of his colleagues in a ledger called the "Record of Dili- 
gence," in evidence that they were all present. 

But negligent and perfunctory as they are, they are not much 
to be blamed ; they do as much as they are paid for. Two taels 
per month (three dollars), together with two suits of clothes and 
two bushels of rice per annum, and a fur-jacket once in three 
years these are their emoluments as fixed by law. Scant as 
the money allowance originally was, it is still further reduced 
by being paid in depreciated currency, and actually amounts to 


less than one dollar per month. The requisition for government 
rice is disposed of at a similar discount, the hungry professor be- 
ing obliged to sell it to a broker instead of drawing directly from 
the imperial storehouses. As for the clothing, there is room to 
suspect that it has warmed other shoulders before coming into 
his possession. 

These professorships, however, possess a value independent of 
salary. The empty title carries with it a certain social distinc- 
tion j and the completion of a three years' term of nominal ser- 
vice renders a professor eligible to the post of district magis- 
trate. These places, therefore, do not go a-begging, though their 
incumbents sometimes do. 

In order to form a just idea of the Kwotszekien, we must 
study its constitution. This will acquaint us with the design of 
its founders, and show us what it was in its prime, at the begin- 
ning of the present dynasty, or, for that matter, at the beginning 
of any other dynasty that has ruled China for the last three 
thousand years. We find it in the Tatsing hweitien, the collected 
statutes of the reigning dynasty ; and it looks so well on paper 
that we cannot refrain from admiring the wisdom and liberality 
of the ancient worthies who planned it, however poorly its pres- 
ent state answers to their original conception. We find our re- 
spect for the Chinese increasing as we recede from the present ; 
a,nd in China, among the dust and decay of her antiquated and 
effete institutions, one may be excused for catching the common 
infection, and becoming a worshipper of antiquity. 

Its officers, according to this authority, consist of a rector, who 
is selected from among the chief ministers of the State; two 
presidents and three vice-presidents, who have the grade and title 
of tajen, or " great men," and, together with the rector, constitute 
the governing body ; two poh-ske, or directors of instruction ; 
two proctors ; two secretaries ; and one librarian : these are gen- 
eral officers. Then come the officers of the several colleges. 

There are six colleges for Chinese students, bearing the names 


of the " Hall for the Pursuit of Wisdom," the " Hall of the Sin- 
cere Heart," "Hall of True Virtue," "Hall of Noble Aspira- 
tions," " Hall of Broad Acquirements," and the " Hall for the 
Guidance of Nature." Each of these has two regular professors, 
and I know not how many assistants. There are eight colleges 
for the Manchu Tartars, as above mentioned, each with five pro- 
fessors. And, lastly, there is a school for the Russian language, 
and a school for mathematics and astronomy, each with one pro- 
fessor. To these we add six clerks and translators, and we have 
a total of seventy-one persons, constituting what we may call the 
corporation of the university. 

As to the curriculum of studies, its literature was never ex- 
pected to go beyond the thirteen classics engraved on the stones 
which adorn its halls ; while its arts and sciences were all compre- 
hended in the familiar " Six," which from the days of Chow, if 
not from those of Yaou and Shun, have formed the trivium and 
quadrivium of the Chinese people. 

It would be doing injustice to the ancients to accuse them of 
limiting the scientific studies of the Kwotszekien by their narrow 
formula}. The truth is, that, little as the ancients accomplished 
in this line, their modern disciples have not attempted to emu- 
late or overtake them. In the University of Grand Cairo, it is 
said, no science that is more recent than the twelfth century is 
allowed to be taught. In that of China, the " School for the 
Sons of the Empire," no science whatever is pretended to be 

This is not, however, owing to any restriction in the constitu- 
tion or charter, as its terms afford sufficient scope for expansion 
if the officers of the university had possessed the disposition or 
the capacity to avail themselves of such liberty. It is there said, 
for example, " As to practical arts, such as the art of war, astron- 
omy, engraving, music, law, and the like, let the professors lead 
their students to the original sources and point out the defects 
and the merits of each author." 


Is there any ground to hope that this ancient school, once an 
ornament and a blessing to the Empire, may be renovated, re- 
modelled, and adapted to the altered circumstances of the age ? 
The prospect, we think, is not encouraging. A traveller, on en- 
tering the city of Peking, is struck by the vast extent and skil- 
ful masonry of its sewers ; but he is not less astonished at their 
present dilapidated condition, reeking with filth and breeding 
pestilence, instead of ministering to the health of the city. 
When these cloacce are restored, and lively streams of mountain 
water are made to course through all their veins and arteries, 
then, and not till then, may this old university be reconstructed 
and perform a part in the renovation of the Empire. 

Creation is sometimes easier than reformation. It was a con- 
viction of this fact that led the more enlightened among the 
Chinese ministers some years ago to favor the establishment of 
a new institution for the cultivation of foreign science, rather 
than attempt to introduce it through any of the existing chan- 
nels, such as the Kwotszekien, Astronomical College, or Board 
of Works. 

Their undertaking met with strenuous opposition from a party 
of bigoted conservatives, headed by Wojin, a member of the 
privy council, and tutor to his Majesty. Through his influence 
mainly, the educated classes were induced to stand aloof, profess- 
ing that they would be better employed in teaching the Western 
barbarians than in learning from them. Wojin scouted the idea 
that in so vast an Empire there could be any want of natives 
who would be found qualified to give instruction in all the 
branches proposed to be studied. 

The Emperor took him at his word, and told him to come for- 
ward with his men ; and he might have carte-blanche for the es- 
tablishment of a rival school. He declined the trial in the form 
in which it was proposed; but he now has the opportunity of 
making the experiment on a much more extensive scale. 

This hater of foreigners and vaunter of native science is now 


Rector of the Kwotszekien the " School for the Sons of the 
Empire." Let us see what he will make of it. Under his care 
will it become a fountain of light, or will it continue to be what 
it now is, a wholesale manufactory of spurious mandarins?* 

* Wojin died not long after his appointment to this office, and at the 
present hour (1879) the old university continues to be just what it was eight 
years ago. 



THE religious experience of the Chinese is worthy of attentive 
study. Detached at an early period from the parent stock, and 
for thousands of years holding but little intercourse with, other 
branches of the human family, we are able to ascertain with a 
good degree of precision those ideas which constituted their 
original inheritance, and to trace in history the development or 
corruption of their primitive beliefs. Midway in their long ca- 
reer, importing from India an exotic system, and more recently 
coming in contact with Mahometanism and Christianity, we are 
enabled to observe the manner in which their indigenous creeds 
have been affected or modified by foreign elements. 

In their long experience each of the leading systems has been 
fairly tested. The arena has been large enough, and the dura- 
tion of the experiment long enough, to admit of each system 
working out its full results; and these experiments are of the 
greater value, because they have been wrought out in the midst 
of a highly organized society, and in connection with a high de- 
gree of intellectual culture. 

In their views and practices, the Chinese of to-day are poly- ' 
tli<'i>tk- and idolatrous. The evidence of this strikes the atten- 
tion of the voyager on every hand. In the sanpan that carries 
him to the shore, he discovers a small shrine which contains an 
image of the river-god, the god of wealth, or Kwanyin (the god- 
dess of mercy). His eye is charmed by the picturesqueness of 
pagodas perched on mountain-crags, and monasteries nestling in 

* This paper first appeared in the New - Englander quarterly review, 
April, 1869. 



sequestered dells ; and, on entering even a small town, he is sur- 
prised at the extent, if not the magnificence, of temples erected 
to Cheng-hwang, the " city defender," and Confucius, the patron 
of letters. Heaps of gilt paper are consumed in the streets, ac- 
companied by volleys of fire-crackers. Bonzes, modulating their 
voices by the sound of a wooden rattle, fill the air with their 
melancholy chant ; and processions wind through narrow lanes, 
bearing on their shoulders a silver effigy of the " dragon king," 
the god of rain. 

These temples, images, and symbols, he is informed, all belong 
to San kiao (three religions). All three are equally idolatrous, 
and he inquires in vain for any influential native sect, which, 
more enlightened or philosophical than the rest, raises a protest 
against the prevailing superstition. Yet, on acquiring the lan- 
guage and studying the popular superstitions in their myriad 
fantastic shapes, he begins to discover traces of a religious senti- 
ment, deep and real, which is not connected with any of the ob- 
jects of popular worship a veneVation for Tien, or Heaven, and 
a belief that in the visible heavens there resides some vague pow- 
er who provides for the wants of men, and rewards them accord- 
ing to their deeds. 

Personified as Lautienye not Heavenly Father, as it expresses 
the Christian's conception of combined tenderness and majesty, 
but literally " Old Father Heaven," much as we say " Old Father 
Time" or designated by a hundred other appellations, this au- 
gust but unknown Being, though universally acknowledged, is 
invoked or worshipped only to a very limited extent. Some, at 
the close of the year, present a thank-offering to the Great Pow- 
er who has controlled the course of its events ; others burn a 
stick of incense every evening under the open sky ; and in the 
marriage ceremony all classes bow down before Tien as the first 
of the five objects of veneration.* 

* The other four are the earth, the prince, parents, and teachers. 



"When taxed with ingratitude in neglecting to honor that Be- 
ing on whom they depend for existence, the Chinese uniformly I 
reply, " It is not ingratitude, but reverence, that prevents our \ 
worship. He is too great for us to worship. None but the 
Emperor is worthy to lay an offering on the altar of Heaven." 
In conformity with this sentiment, the Emperor, as the high- 
priest and mediator of his people, celebrates in Peking the wor- 
ship of Heaven with imposing ceremonies. 

Within the gates of the southern division of the capital, and 
surrounded by a sacred grove so extensive that the silence of its 
deep shades is never broken by the noises of the busy world, 
stands the Temple of Heaven. It consists of a single tower, 
whose tiling of resplendent azure is intended to represent the 
form and color of the aerial vault. It costaioSLJlo image, and | 
the solemn rites are not performed within the tower ; but, on a 
marble altar which stands before it, a bullock is offered once a 
year as a burnt-sacrifice, while the master of the Empire pros- 
trates himself in adoration of the Spirit of the Universe.* 

This is the high-place of Chinese devotion ; and the thought- 
ful visitor feels that he ought to tread its courts with unsandalled 
feet.f For no vulgar idolatry has entered here : this mountain- \ 
top still stands above the waves of corruption, and on this soli- 
tary altar there still rests a faint ray of the primeval faith. The 
tablet which represents the invisible Deity is inscribed with the 
name of Shangte, the Suprome Ruler; and as we contemplate 
the Majesty of the Empire prostrate before it while the smoke 
ascends from his burning sacrifice, our thoughts are irresistibly 

* Another tower of similar structure but larger dimensions stands in a 
separate enclosure as a kind of vestibule to the more sacred place. It is 
called jjjjf- &f 1^ and here it is that the Emperor prays for "fruitful sea- 

f Dr. Legge, the distinguished translator of the Chinese Classics, visiting 
Peking some years after this was written, actually " put his shoes from off 
his feet " before ascending the steps of the great altar. 


carried back to the time when the King of Salem officiated as 
1'rie-t of the Most High God." 

The writings and the institutions of the Chinese are not, like 
those of the Hindoos and the Hebrews, pervaded with the idea 
of God. It is, nevertheless, expressed "in their ancient books 
with so much clearness as to make us wonder and lament that 
it has left so faint an impression on the national mind. 

In their books of History it is recorded that music was in- 
vented for the praise of Shangte. Rival claimants for the throne 
appeal to the judgment of Shangte. He is the arbiter of na- 
tions, and, while actuated by benevolence, is yet capable of being 
provoked to wrath by the iniquities of men. In the Book of 
Changes he is represented as restoring life to torpid nature on 
the return of spring. In the Book of Rites it is said that the 
ancients " prayed for grain to Shangte," and presented in offer- 
ing a bullock, which must be without blemish, and stall-fed for 
three months before the day of sacrifice. In the Book of Odes, 
mostly composed from eight hundred to a thousand years before 
the Christian era, and containing fragments of still higher an- 
tiquity, Shangte is represented as seated on a lofty throne, while 
the spirits of the good " walk up and down on his right and 

In none of these writings is Shangte clothed in the human 
form or debased by human passion like the Zeus of the Greek. 
Xhere is in them even less of anthropomorphism than we find 
in the representations of Jehovah in the Hebrew Scriptures. 
The nearest approach to exhibiting him in the human form is 
the ascription to Shangte of a " huge footprint," probably an 
impression on some mass of rock. But how far the conception 
of the Supreme Ruler is removed from gross materialism may 
be inferred from that line in one of the ancient odes, Shangte 
wu sheng wu hiu " God has no voice or odor," i. e. he is im- 
gerceptible by the senses. And the philosopher Chuhe says, in 
his Commentary on the Ancient Classics, that " Shangte is le" 


i. e. a principle of nature. Educated Chinese, on embracing 
Christianity, assert that the Shangte of their fathers was identi- 
cal with the Tienchu, the Lord of Heaven, whom they are taught 
to worship.* 

There is therefore no need of an extended argument, even if 
our space would admit of it, to establish the fact that the early 
Chinese were by no means destitute of the knowledge of God. 
They did not, indeed, know him as the Creator, but they recog- 
nized him as supreme in providence, and without beginning or end. \ 

Whence came this conception ? Was it the mature result of 
ages of speculation, or was it brought down from remote an- 
tiquity on the stream of patriarchal tradition? The latter, we 
think, is the only probable hypothesis. In the earlier books of 
the Chinese there is no trace of speculative inquiry. They raise 
no question as to the nature of Shangte, or the grounds of their 
faith in such a being, but in their first pages allude to him as 
already well known, and speak of burnt-offerings made to him 
on mountain-tops as an established rite. Indeed, the idea of 
Shangte, when it first meets us, is not in the process of develop- 
ment, but already in the first stages of decay. The beginnings 
of that idolatry by which it was subsequently almost obliterated 
are distinctly traceable. The heavenly bodies, the spirits of the 
hills and rivers, and even the spirits of deceased men, were ad- 
mitted to a share in the divine honors of Shangte. The religious 
sentiment was frittered away by being directed to a multiplicity 
of objects, and the popular mind seemed to take refuge among 
the creatures of its own fancy, as Adam did amidst the trees of 
the Garden, from the terrible idea of a holy God. A debasing 
superstition became universal. Such was the state of things 
prior to the rise of the Three Religions. 

* Paul Seu, a member of the Hanliu Academy, and cabinet minister under 
the Ming dynasty, makes this assertion in an eloquent apology addressed to 
the throne in behalf of his new faith and its teachers. 


In order to understand the mutual relations of these three 
systems in other words, to understand the religious aspects of 
China at the present day it will be necessary to give separate 
attention to the rise and progress of each. We begin with Con- 

There are two classes of great men who leave their mark on 
the condition of their species those who change the course of 
history without any far-reaching purpose, much as a falling cliff 
changes the direction of a stream ; and those, again, who, like 
skilful engineers, excavate a channel for the thought of future 
generations. Pre-eminent among the latter stands the name of 
Confucius. Honored during his lifetime to such a degree that 
the princes of several states lamented his decease like that of a 
father, his influence has deepened with time and extended with 
the swelling multitudes of his people. Buddhism and Tauism 
both give signs of decay, but the influence and the memory of 
Confucius continue as green as the cypresses that shade his tomb. 
After the lapse of three-and-twenty centuries, he has a temple 
in every city, and an effigy in every schoolroom. He is vener- 
ated as the fountain of wisdom by all the votaries of letters, 
and worshipped by the mandarins of the realm as the author of 
their civil polity. The estimation in which his teachings continue 
to be held is well exhibited in the reply which the people of 
Shantung, his native province, gave to a missionary who, some 
thirty years ago, offered them Christian books : " We have seen 
your books," said they, " and neither desire nor approve of them. 
In the instructions of our Sage we have sufficient, and they are 
superior to any foreign doctrines that you can bring us." 

Born B.C. 551, and endowed with uncommon talents, Con- 
fucius was far from relying on the fertility of his own genius. 
"Reading without thought is fruitless, and thought without 
reading dangerous," is a maxim which he taught his disciples, 
and one which he had doubtless followed in the formation of his 
own mind. China already possessed accumulated treasures of 


literature and history. With these materials he stored his 
memory, and by the aid of reflection digested them into a sys- 
tem for the use of posterity. 

Filled with enthusiasm by the study of the ancients, and 
mourning over the degeneracy of his own times, he entered at 
an early age on the vocation of reformer. He at first sought to 
effect his objects by obtaining civil office and setting an example 
of good government, as well as by giving instruction to those 
who became his disciples. At the age of fifty-five he was ad- 
vanced to the premiership of his native State ; and in a few 
months the improvement in the public morals was manifest. 
Valuables might be exposed in the street without being stolen, 
and shepherds abandoned the practice of filling their sheep with 
water before leading them to market. 

The circumstance that led him to renounce political life is 
worth recording. The little kingdom of Lu grew apace in 
wealth and prosperity; and the princes of rival states, in order 
to prevent its acquiring an ascendency in the politics of the 
Empire, felt it necessary to counteract the influence of the wise 
legislator. Resorting to a stratagem similar to that which Louis 
XIV. employed with Charles II., they sent to the Prince of Lu, 
instead of brave generals or astute statesmen, a band of beautiful 
girls who were skilled in music and dancing. The prince, young 
and amorous, was caught in the snare, and, giving the rein to 
pleasure, abandoned all the schemes of reform with which he had 
been inspired by the counsels of the Sage. Disappointed and 
disgusted, Confucius retired into private life. 

Thwarted, as he had often been, by royal pride and official 
jealousy, he henceforth endeavored to attain his ends by a less 
direct but more certain method. He devoted himself more than 
ever to the instruction of youth. His fame attracted young 
men of promise from all the surrounding principalities. No 
fewer than three thousand received his instructions, among whom 
five hundred became distinguished mandarins, and seventy-two 


of them are enrolled on the list of the sages of the. Empire. 
Through these and the books which he edited subsequently to 
this period, there can be no doubt that he exerted a greater in- 
fluence on the destinies of the Empire than he could have done 
had he been seated on the Imperial throne. He won for him- 
self the title of Su Wang, "the unsceptred monarch," whose 
intellectual sway is acknowledged by all ages. 

Confucius understood the power of proverbs, and, incorporat- 
ing into his system such as met his approval, he cast his own 
teachings in the same mould. His speeches are laconic and 
oracular, and he has transmitted to posterity a body of political 
ethics expressed in formula? so brief and comprehensive that 
it may easily be retained in the weakest memory. Thus, kuin 
chieng, fu tsz, fu fu, hiungte, pung yiu, are ten syllables which 
every boy in China has at his tongue's end. They contain the 
entire framework of the social fabric the " five relations" of 
sovereign and subject, parent and child, husband and wife, broth- 
er and brother, friend and friend, which, according to the Chi- 
nese, comprehend the whole duty of man as a social being. 
The five cardinal virtues benevolence, justice, order, prudence, 
and fidelity so essential to the well-being of society, Confucius 
inculcated in the five syllables jen e le che sin. 

The following sentences, taken from his miscellaneous dis- 
courses, may serve as illustrations of both the style and the 
matter of his teaching : 

"Good government consists in making the prince a prince, 
the subject a subject, the parent a parent, and the child a child." 

" Beware of doing to another what you would not that other* 
should do to you." 

"He that is not offended at being misunderstood is a su- 
perior man." 

" Have no friend who is inferior to yourself in virtue." 

" Be not afraid to correct a fault. He that knows the right 
and fears to do it is not a brave man." 


" If you guide the people by laws, and enforce the laws by 
punishment, they will lose the sense of shame and seek to evade 
them ; but if you guide them by a virtuous example, and diffuse 
among them a love of order, they will be ashamed to trans- 

" To know what we know, and to know what we do not know, 
is knowledge." 

" We know not life, how can we know death ?" 

" The filial son is one who gives his parents no anxiety but for 
his health." 

Filial piety, Confucius taught, is not merely a domestic virtue, 
but diffuses its influence through all the actions of life. A son 
who disgraces his parents in any way is unfilial ; one who mal- 
treats a brother or a relative, forgetful of the bonds of a com- 
mon parentage, is unfilial. This powerful motive is thus render- 
ed expansive in its application, like piety to God in the Christian 
system, for which, indeed, it serves as a partial substitute. It is 
beautifully elaborated in the Hiao king, the most popular of the 
Thirteen Classics. 

Virtue, Confucius taught with Aristotle, is the mean between 
two vices, and this theory is developed by his grandson in the 
Chungyung, the sublimest of the sacred books. 

The secret of good government, he taught, consists in the cul- 
tivation of personal virtue on the part of rulers ; and the con- 
nection between private morals and national politics is well set 
forth in the Ta hio, or Great Study. 

This brief tractate is the only formal composition, with the 
exception of an outline of history, which the Great Sage put forth 
as the product of his own pen. " I am an editor, and not an 
author," is the modest account which he gives of himself, and it 
is mainly to his labors in this department that China is indebted 
for her knowledge of antecedent antiquity. 

The spirit in which he discharged this double duty to the past 
and future may be inferred from the impressive ceremony with 



which he concluded his great task. Assembling his disciples, he 
led them to the summit of a neighboring hill, where sacrifices 
were usually offered. Here he erected an altar, and placing on 
it an edition of the sacred books which he had just completed, 
the gray-haired philosopher, now seventy years of age, fell on 
his knees, devoutly returned thanks for having had life and 
strength granted him to accomplish that laborious undertaking, 
at the same time imploring that the benefit his countrymen 
would receive from it might not be small. " Chinese pictures," 
says Pauthier, "represent the Sage in the attitude of supplica- 
tion, and a beam of light or a rainbow descending on the sacred 
volumes, while his disciples stand around him in admiring won- 

Thales expired about the time Confucius drew his infant 
breath, and Pythagoras was his contemporary, but the only 
names among the Greeks which admit of comparisoiLwith that 
of Confucius are Socrates and Aristotle, the former of whom 
revolutionized the philosophy of Greece, and the latter ruled the 
dialectics of mediaeval Europe. Without the discursive elo- 
quence of the one or the logical acumen of the other, Confucius 
surpassed them both in practical wisdom, and exceeds them im- 
measurably in the depth, extent, and permanence of his influ- 

It is not surprising that when missionaries attempt to direct 
their attention to the Saviour, the Chinese point to Confucius 
and challenge comparison ; nor that they should sometimes fail 
to be satisfied with the arguments employed to establish the su- 
periority of Jesus Christ. But the thoughtful Christian who 
has studied the canonical books of China can hardly return to 
the perusal of the New Testament without a deeper conviction 
of its divine authority. In the Confucian classics he detects 

* Since reading this passage in Pauthier, I have myself seen this picture 
in a native pictorial biography of Confucius. 


none of that impurity which defiles the pages of Greek and Ro- 
man authors, and none of that monstrous mythology which con- 
stitutes so large a portion of the sacred books of the Hindoos, 
but he discovers defects enough to make him turn with grati- 
tude to the revelations of the " Teacher sent from God." 

Disgusted at the superstitions of the vulgar, and desirous of 
guarding his followers against similar excesses, Confucius led 
them into the opposite extreme of scepticism. He ignored, if 
he did not deny, those cardinal doctrines of all religion, the im- 
mortality of the soul, and the personal existence of God, both of 
which were currently received in his day. In place of Shangte 
(Supreme Ruler), the name under which the God of Nature 
had been worshipped in earlier ages, he made use of the vague 
appellation T'ien (Heaven) ; thus opening the way, on the one 
hand, for that atheism with which their modern philosophy is so 
deeply infected, and, on the other, for that idolatry which noth- 
ing but the doctrine of a personal God can effectually counteract. 
When his pupils proposed inquiries respecting a future state, he 
either discouraged them or answered ambiguously, and thus de- 
prived his own precepts of the support they might have derived 
from the sanctions of a coming retribution. Thus in a remark- 
able discourse reported in the Kia-yu a collection the authority 
of which is not, however, above suspicion he says, " If I should 
say the soul survives the body, I fear the filial would neglect their 
living parents in their zeal to serve their deceased ancestors. If, 
on the contrary, I should say the soul does not survive, I fear 
lest the unfilial should throw away the bodies of their parents 
and leave them unburied." 

We may add that, while his writings abound in the praises of 
virtue, not a line can be found inculcating the pursuit of truth. 
Expediency, not truth, is the goal of his system. Contrast with 
this the Gospel of Christ, which pronounces him the only free 
man whom the " truth makes free," and promises to his follow- 
ers " the Spirit of Truth " as his richest legacy. 


The style of Confucius was an ipse-dixit dogmatism, and it 
has left its impress on the unreasoning habit of the Chinese 
mind. Jesus Christ appealed to evidence and challenged in- 
quiry, and this characteristic of our religion has shown itself in 
the mental development of Christian nations. Nor is the con- 
trast less striking in another point. Illius dicta, hujus facia 
laudantur, to borrow the words of Tully in comparing Cato 
with Socrates. Confucius selected disciples who should be the 
depositaries of his teachings ; Christ chose apostles who should 
be witnesses of his actions. Confucius died lamenting that the 
edifice he had labored so long to erect was crumbling to ruin. 
Christ's death was the crowning act of his life ; and his last 
words, " It is finished." 

It was a philosophy, not a religion, that Confucius aimed to 
propagate. " Our Master/' say his disciples, " spake little con- 
cerning the gods." He preferred to confine his teachings to 
the more tangible realities of human life ; but so far from set- 
ting himself to reform the vulgar superstition, he conformed to 
its silly ceremonies and enjoined the same course on his disci- 
ples. " Treat the gods with respect," he said to them, but, he 
added, in terms which leave no ambiguity in the meaning of 
the precept, " keep them at a distance," or, rather, " keep out of 
their way." A cold sneer was not sufficient to wither or eradi- 
cate the existing idolatry, and the teachings of Confucius gave 
authority and prevalence to many idolatrous usages which were 
only partially current before his day. 

Confucianism now stands forth as the leading religion of the 
Empire. Its objects of worship are of three classes the pow- 
ers of nature, ancestors, and heroes. Originally recognizing the 
existence of a Supreme personal Deity, it has degenerated into 
a pantheistic medley, and renders worship to an impersonal 
anima mundi under the leading forms of visible nature. Be- 
sides the concrete universe, separate honors are paid to the sun, 
moon, and stars, mountains, rivers, and lakes. 


Of all their religious observances, the worship of ancestors is 
that which the Chinese regard as the most sacred. As ./Eneas 
obtained the name of "Pius" in honor of his filial devotion, so 
the Chinese idea of piety rises no higher. The Emperor, ac- 
cording to the Confucian school, may worship the Spirit of the 
Universe, but for his subjects it is sufficient that each present 
offerings to the spirits of his own ancestors. These rites are 
performed either at the family tombs or in the family temple, 
where wooden tablets, inscribed with their names, are preserved 
as sacred to the memory of the deceased, and worshipped pre- 
cisely in the same manner as the popular idols. 

The class of deified heroes comprehends illustrious sages, 
eminent sovereigns, faithful statesmen, valiant warriors, filial 
sons, and public benefactors Confucius himself occupying the 
first place, and constituting, as the Chinese say, " one of a trinity 
with Heaven and Earth." 

Like Confucianism, Tauism is indigenous to China, and, 
coeval with the former in its origin, it was also coheir to the 
mixed inheritance of good and evil contained in the more an- 
cient creeds. The Tauists derive their name from tau, rea- 
son, and call themselves Rationalists; but, with a marvellous 
show of profundity, nothing can be more irrational than their 
doctrine and practice. Their. founder, Li-ejj, appears to have 
possessed a great mind, and to have caught glimpses of several 
sublime truths ; but he has been sadly misrepresented by his 
degenerate followers. He lived in the sixth century B.C.. and 
was contemporary with, but older than, Confucius. So great 
was the fame of his wisdom that the latter philosopher sought 
his instructions; but, differing from him in mental mould as 
widely as Aristotle did from Plato, he could not relish the bold- 
ness of his speculations or the vague obscurity of his style. He 
never repeated his visit, though he always spoke of him with 
respect and even with admiration. 

Lautsz, the " old Master," is the appellation by which the 


great Tauist is commonly known, and it was probably given 
him during his lifetime to distinguish him from his younger 
rival. The rendering of " old child " is no more to be received 
than the fiction of eighty years' gestation invented to account 
for it. 

Lautsz bequeathed his doctrines to posterity in "five thousand 
\voi-ilV which compose the Tau teh king, the Rule ofjleason 
and Virtue. In expression, this work is extremely sententious ; 
and in the form of its composition, semi-poetical. It abounds 
in acute apothegms, and some of its passages rise to the charac- 
ter of sublimity ; but so incoherent are its contents that it is 
Imp. il'lr f<>r any literal interpretation to form them into a sys- 
tem. Its inconsistencies, however, readily yield to that universal 
solvent the hypothesis of a mystical meaning underlying the 
letter of the text. The following passage appears to embody 
some obscure but lofty conceptions of the True God : 

" That \\ liieh is invisible is called ye. 
That which is inaudible is called he. 


That, which is impalpable is called wei. 

Thc-r three are inscrutable, and blended in one. 

The first is not the brighter ; nor the last the darker. 

It is interminable, ineffable, and existed when there was 


A shape without shape, a form without form. 
A confounding mystery ! 
Go back, you cannot discover its beginning. 
Go forward, you cannot find its end. 
Take the ancient Reason to govern the present, 
And you will know the origin of old. 
This is the first principle of Tau.' 1 '' 

Some European scholars discover here a notion of the Trinity, 
and, combining the syllables ye, he, and wei for which process, 
however, they are unable to assign any very good reason they 
obtain yehewei, which they accept as a distorted representation 


of the name Jehovah. Lautsz is said to have travelled in coun- 
tries to the west of China, where it is supposed he may have 
met with Jews, and learned from them the name and nature of 
the Supreme Being. Whatever truth there may be in these 
conjectures, it is certain that some native commentators recog- 
nize in the passage a description of Shangte, the God of the 
Chinese patriarchs; and the three syllables of which the name 
is composed are admitted to have no assignable meaning in the 
Chinese language. 

Here we find a connection between the degenerate philosophy 
of after-ages and the pure fountain of primeval truth. In fact, 
this very Shangte, though they have debased the name by be- 
stowing it on a whole class of their dii superiores, is still en- 
throned on the summit of the Tauist Olympus, with ascriptions 
more expressive of his absolute divinity than any to be met 
with in the canonical books of the Confucian school. At the 
head of their Theogony stands the triad of the San tsiny, the 
" Tliree Pure " ones ; the first of whom is styled " The mysteri- 
ous sovereign who has no superior;" " The self-existent source 
ami beginning;" the "Honored one of Heaven." 

He is said to have created the " three worlds ;" ^to jiave pro- 
duced men and gods; to have set the stars in motion, and caused 
the planets to revolve. But, alas ! this catalogue of sublime 
titles and divine attributes is the epitaph of a buried faith. 
The Tauists persuaded themselves that this August Being, 
wrapped in the solitude of his own perfections, had delegated 
the government of the universe to a subordinate, whom they 
style Yuhwang Shangte. The former has dwindled into an 
inoperative idea, the latter is recognized as the actual God ; and 
this deity, who plays mayor of the palace to a roi faineant, is 
regarded as the apotheosis of a mortal by the name of Chang, an 
ancestor of the present hierarch of the Tauist religion. It is 
painful, after discoursing to them of the attributes of the True 
God, to hear the people exclaim, " That is our Yuhwang Shangte." 


In its philosophy, this school is radically and thoroughly 
materialistic. The soul itself they regard as a material sub- 
stance, though of a more refined quality than the body it inhab- 
its. Liable to dissolution, together with the body, it may be 
rendered capable of surviving the wreck by undergoing a pre- 
vious discipline ; and even the body is capable of becoming in- 
vulnerable by the stroke of death, so that the etherealized form 
will, instead of being laid in the grave, be wafted away to the 
abodes of the genii. It is scarcely possible to represent the 
extent to which this idea fired the minds of the Chinese for 
ages after its promulgation, or to estimate the magnitude of its 
consequences. The prospect of a corporeal immortality had 
for them attractions far stronger than a shadowy existence in 
the land of spirits; and they sought it with an eagerness amount- 
ing to frenzy. The elixir of life became the grand object of 
pursuit, and alchemy, with its foolish failures and grand achieve- 
ments, sprang directly from the religion of Tau.* 

The leading principle of Tauistn, of which their dogma con- 
cerning the human soul is only a particular application, is that 
every species of matter possesses a soul a subtile essence en- 
dowed with individual conscious life. Freed from their grosser 
elements, these become the genii that preside over the various 
departments of nature. Some wander at will through the realms 
of space, endowed with a protean facility of transformation ; 
others, more pure and ethereal, rise to the regions of the stars, 
and take their places in the firmament. Thus the five principal 
planets are called by the names of the " five elements " from 
which they are believed to have originated, and over which they 
are regarded as presiding. The stars are divinities, and their 
motions control the destinies of men and things a notion which 
has done much to inspire the zeal of the Chinese for recording 
the phenomena of the heavens. 

* See Essay on Alchemy in this volume. 


A theogony like this is rich in the elements of poetry ; and 
most of the machinery in Chinese works of imagination is, in 
fact, derived from this source. The Liauchai, for example, a 
collection of marvellous tales which, in their general character, 
may be compared to the Metamorphoses of Ovid, is largely 
founded on the Tauist mythology. 

In accordance with the materialistic character of the Tauist 
sect, nearly all the gods whom the Chinese regard as presiding 
over their material interests originated with this school. The 
god of rain, the god of fire, the god of medicine, the god of 
agriculture, and the lares, or kitchen gods, are among the princi- 
pal of this class. 

A system which supplies deities answering to the leading 
wants and desires of mankind cannot be uninfluential ; but, in 
addition to the strong motives that attract worshippers to their 
temples, the Tauist priesthood possess two independent sources 
of influence. They hold the monopoly of geomancy, a super- 
stitious art which professes to select on scientific principles 
those localities that are most propitious for building and burial ; 
and they have succeeded in persuading the people that they 
alone are able to secure them from annoyance by evil spirits. 
The philosophy of Tau has thus not only given birth to a re- 
ligion, but degenerated into a system of magical imposture, pre- 
sided over by an arch-magician who lives in almost imperial 
state,* and sways the sceptre over the spirits of the invisible 
world as the Emperor does over the living population of the 

As a religion, Buddhism seems to enjoy more of the popular 
favor than Tauism ; though the former professes to draw men 
away from the world and its vanities, while the latter proffers 
the blessings of health, wealth, and long life. 

* This is not quite true of the present High-priest, who is so reduced in 
circumstances that he sometimes leaves his residence in the Lunghu moun- 
tains to raise money in wealthier regions. 


It is rarely that we find a Buddhist temple of any considera- 
ble reputation that is not situated in a locality distinguished for 
some feature of its natural scenery. One situated in the midst 
of a dusty plain, not far from the gates of Tientsin, seemed to 
us, when we first visited it, to present a striking exception to the 
general rule. Subsequently, however, a brilliant mirage, which 
we frequently saw as we approached the temple, furnished us at 
once with the explanation of its location and its name. It is 
called the temple of the " Sea of Light ;" and its founders, no 
doubt, placed it there in order that the deceptive mirage, which 
is always visible in bright sunny weather, might serve its con- 
templative inmates as a memento of the chief tenet of their 
philosophy that all things are unreal, and human life itself a 
shifting phantasmagoria of empty shadows. 

Sequestered valleys enclosed by mountain-peaks, and elevated 
far above the world which they profess to despise, are favorite 
seats for the monastic communities of Buddhism. But it is no 
yearning after God that leads them to court retirement ; nor is 
it the adoration of nature's Author that prompts them to place 
their shrines in the midst of his sublimest works. To them the 
universe is a vacuum, and emptiness the highest object of con- 

They are a strange paradox religious atheists ! Acknowledg- 
ing no First Cause or Conscious Ruling Power, they hold that 
the human soul revolves perpetually in the urn of fate, liable to 
endless ills, and enjoying no real good. As it cannot cease to be, 
its only resource against this state of interminable misery is the 
extinction of consciousness a remedy which lies within itself, 
and which they endeavor to attain by ascetic exercises. 

Their daily prayers consist of endless repetitions, which are 
not expected to be heard by the unconscious deity to whom they 
are addressed, but are confessedly designed merely to exert a 
reflex influence on the worshipper i. e. to occupy the mind 
with empty sounds and withdraw it from thought and feeling. 


Tama, one of their saints, is said thus to have sat motionless for 
nine years with his face to the wall ; not engaged, as a German 
would conjecture, in " thinking the wall," but occupied with the 
more difficult task of thinking nothing at all. 

Those in whom the discipline is completest are believed to 
have entered the Nirvana not an Elysium of conscious enjoy- 
ment, but a negative state of exemption from pain. Such is the 
condition of all the Buddhas, who, though the name is taken to 
signify supreme intelligence, are reduced to an empty abstraction 
in a state which is described as pu sheng pu mie, " neither life 
nor death;" and such is the aspiration of all their votaries. 
Melancholy spectacle ! Men of acute minds, bewildered in the 
maze of their own speculations, and seeking to attain perfection 
by stripping themselves of the highest attributes of humanity ! 

As a philosophy, Buddhism resembles Stoicism in deriving 
its leading motive from the fear of evil. But while the latter 
encased itself in panoply, and, standing in martial attitude, de- 
fied the world to spoil the treasures laid up in its bosom, the 
former seeks security by emptying the soul of its susceptibilities 
and leaving nothing that is capable of being harmed or lost 
i. e. treating the soul as Epictetus is said to have done his dwell- 
ing-house, in order that he might not be annoyed by the visits 
of thieves. It dries up the sources of life, wraps the soul in the 
cerements of the grave, and aims to convert a living being into 
a spiritual mummy which shall survive all changes without being 
affected by them. 

This is the spirit and these the principles of esoteric Buddhism 
as enunciated by those members of the inner circle whose wan 
cheeks and sunken, rayless eyes indicate that they are far ad- 
vanced in the process of self-annihilation. In their external man- 
ifestations they vary with different schools and countries, the 
lamas of Tartary and the sarmanas of Ceylon appearing to have 
little in common. 

To adapt itself to the comprehension of the masses, Buddhism 


Las personified its abstract conceptions and converted them into 
divinities ; while, to pave the way for its easier introduction, it 
readily embraces the gods and heroes of each country in its com- 
prehensive pantheon. 

In China the Nirvana was found to be too subtle an idea for 
popular contemplation, and, in order to furnish the people with a 
more attract! /e object of worship, the Buddhists brought for- 
ward a Goddess of Mercy, whose highest merit was that, having 
reached the verge of Nirvana, she declined to enter, preferring 
to remain where she could hear the cries and succor the calami- 
ties of those who were struggling with the manifold evils of a 
world of change. From this circumstance she is called the Tsz'- 
pei Kwan-yin, the " merciful goddess who hears the prayers " of 

This winning attribute meets a want of humanity, and makes 
her a favorite among the votaries of the faith. While the Three 
Buddhas hold a more prominent position in the temple, she occu- 
pies the first place in the hearts of their worshippers. Temples 
of a secondary class are often devoted especially to her ; and in 
the greater ones she almost always finds a shrine or corner where 
she is represented with a thousand hands ready to succor human 
suffering, or holding in her arms a beautiful infant, and ready to 
confer the blessing of offspring on her faithful worshippers in 
this last attitude resembling the favorite object of popular wor- 
ship in papal countries. 

In the Sea-light Monastery above referred to, she appears in a 
large side hall, habited in a cloak, her head encircled by an in- 
scription in gilded characters which proclaims her as the " god- 
dess whose favor protects the second birth.' 1 '' This language seems 
to express a Christian thought ; but in reality nothing could be 
more intensely pagan. It relates to the transmigration of souls, 
which is the fundamental doctrine of the system ; and informs 
the visitor that this is the divinity to whom he is to look for 
protection in passing through the successive changes of his fut- 


ure existence. Within the mazes of that mighty labyrinth, 
there is room for every condition of life on earth, and for pur- 
gatories and paradises innumerable besides. Beyond these the 
common Buddhist never looks. To earn by works of merit 
which play an important part in the modified system the re- 
version of a comfortable mandarinate, or a place in the " Para- 
dise of the Western Sky," bounds his aspirations. And to es- 
cape from having their souls triturated in a spiritual mortar, or 
ground between spiritual millstones in Hades; or avoid the 
doom of dwelling in the body of a brute on earth, constitutes 
with the ignorant the strongest motive to deter them from vice 
those and a thousand other penalties being set forth by pict- 
ures and rude casts to impress the minds of such as are unable 
to read. 

Buddhism was little known in China prior to the year A.D. 
66. At that time the Emperor Mingte of the Han dynasty is 
said to have had a remarkable dream that led to its introduction. 
He had seen, he said to his courtiers, a man of gold, holding in 
his hand a bow and two arrows. They, recognizing in these ob- 
jects the elements of Foh the name of Buddha as it is written 
in the Chinese language and calling to mind a saying ascribed 
to Confucius, " that the Holy One is in the West," expounded 
the dream as an intimation that the Buddhist religion ought to 
be introduced from India. The embassy thus sent to the West 
by Imperial command, in quest of a foreign religion, was, it is 
thought, incited by some indistinct rumor of the appearance of 
our Saviour in Judea; and it is interesting to speculate as to 
what the condition of China might have been if the ambassadors, 
instead of stopping in India, had proceeded to Palestine. As it 
is, the success of Buddhism demonstrates the possibility of a for- 
eign faith taking root in the soil of China. 

The San Kiao, or Three Religions, have now passed in revi- 
sion. We have viewed them, however, owing to the limits of our 
space, only in outline, neither allowing ourselves, on the one hand, 


to follow out those superstitious practices which attach them- 
selves to the several schools like the moss and ivy that festoon 
the boughs of aged trees, nor, on the other, to enter into a mi- 
nute investigation of those systems of philosophy in which they 
have their root. The fact that each takes its rise in a school 
of philosophy is significant of the tendencies of human thought, 

The Confucian philosophy in its prominent characteristics was 
ethical, occupying itself mainly with social relations and civil 
duties, shunning studiously all questions that enter into onto- 
logical subtleties or partake of the marvellous and the super- 

The philosophy of Tau as developed by the followers of 
Lautsze, if not in the form in which it was left by their master, 
may be characterized as physical. For the individual it pre- 
scribed a physical discipline; and, without any conception of 
true science, it was filled with the idea of inexhaustible re- 
sources, hidden in the elements of material nature. 

The Buddhist philosophy was pre-eminently metaphysical. 
Originating with a people who, far more than the Chinese, are 
addicted to abstruse speculations, it occupied itself with subtle 
inquiries into the nature and faculties of the human mind, the 
veracity of its perceptions, and the grounds of our delusive faith 
in the independent existence of an external world. 

These three philosophies, differing thus widely in their essential 
character one being thoroughly material, another purely ideal, 
and the third repudiating all such questions and holding itself 
neutral and indifferent yet exhibit some remarkable points of 
agreement. They agree in the original omission or negation of 
religious ideas ; and they coincide no less remarkably in evolving 
each, from its negative basis, a system of religion ; and in con- 
tributing each its quota to the popular idolatry. 

Confucius " seldom spoke of the divinities," and taught his 
disciples to " keep them at a distance ;" and yet the forms of re- 
spect which he enjoined for deceased ancestors led to their virt- 


ual deification, and promoted, if it did not originate, the nation- 
al hero-worship. Like the modern apostle of positivism, pro- 
fessing to occupy himself wholly with positive ideas like him, 
he was unable to satisfy the cravings of his spiritual nature 
without having recourse to a religion of humanity. 

The Buddhist creed denies alike the reality of the material 
world and the existence of an overruling mind ; yet it has peo- 
pled an ideal universe with a race of ideal gods, all of whom are 
entities in the belief of the vulgar. 

The Tauist creed acknowledges no such category as that of 
spirit in contradistinction from matter; yet it swarms heaven 
and earth with tutelar spirits whom the people regard as di- 

We see here a process directly the reverse of that which cer- 
tain atheistic writers of modern Europe assert to be the natural 
progress of the human mind. According to them, men set out 
with the belief of many gods, whom they at length reduce to 
unity, and finally supersede by recognizing the laws of nature as 
independent of a personal administrator. The history of China 
is fatal to this theory. The worship of one God is the oldest 
form of Chinese religion, and idolatry is an innovation. Even 
now new idols are constantly taking their place in the national 
pantheon ; and so strong is the tendency in this direction that 
in every case where philosophy has laid the foundation, idolatry 
has come in to complete the structure. 

It is incorrect to assert that any one of the San Kiao is a State 
religion to the exclusion of the others, though the Confucian is 
sometimes so regarded on account of its greater influence with 
the ruling classes and its marked prominence in connection with 
State ceremonials. Not only are they all recognized and toler- 
ated, but they all share the Imperial patronage. The shrines of 
each of the Three Religions are often erected by Imperial munif- 
icence, and their priests and sacred rites provided for at the 
Imperial expense with impartial liberality. 


Not only do they coexist without conflict in the Empire, but 
they exercise a joint sway over almost every mind in its immense 
population. It is impossible to apportion the people among 
these several creeds. They are all Confucians, all Buddhists, all 
Tauists. They all reverence Confucius and worship their ances- 
tors all participate in the " feast of hungry ghosts," and employ 
the Buddhist burial-service ; and all resort to the magical devices 
of the Tauists >x> protect themselves against the assaults of evil 
spirits, or secure "good luck " in business. They celebrate their 
marriages according to the Confucian rites; in building their 
houses, and in cases of alarming illness, they ask the advice of a 
Tauist ; and at death they commit their souls to the keeping of 
the Buddhists. The people assert, and with truth, that these re- 
ligious, originally three, have become one; and they are accus- 
tomed to symbolize this unity by erecting San kiao tang tem- 
ples of the Three Religions, in which Lautsze and Buddha appear 
on the right and left of Confucius as completing the triad of 
sages. This arrangement, however, gives great offence to some 
of the more zealous disciples of the latter ; and a few years ago 
a memorial was presented to the Emperor, praying him to de- 
stroy the San kiao tariff, which stood near the tomb of their 
great teacher, who has " no equal but Heaven." 

This feeling is only a faint echo of a determined opposition 
which for ages withstood the advance of the rival systems, and 
which has now been overcome to such an extent that they hold 
a co-ordinate place in the popular mind, and receive nearly equal 
honors at the hand of the government. 

The effects of this coalition may be traced in their literature 
as well as in the manners and customs of the people. Of this, 
one example will suffice, though we might go on, if space per- 
mitted, to show how freely the later works of each school appro- 
priate the phraseology of the others, and to point out the extent 
to which the general language of the country has been enriched 
by a vocabulary of religious terms, chiefly of Buddhist origin, all 


of which are incorporated in the Imperial Dictionary and pass 
as current coin in the halls of the literary tribunal. 

In the collection of Tales above referred to, there is a story 
which owes its humor to the bizarre intermixture of elements 
from each of the Three Keligions. 

A young nobleman, riding out, hawk in hand, is thrown from 
his horse and taken up for dead. On being conveyed to his 
house, he opens his eyes and gradually recovers his bodily 
strength ; but to the grief of his family, he is hopelessly insane. 
He fancies himself a Buddhist priest, repels the caresses of the 
ladies of his harem, and insists on being conveyed to a distant 
province, where he affirms he has passed his life in a monas- 
tery. On arriving he proves himself to be the abbot ; and the 
mystery of his transfiguration is at once solved. 

The young nobleman had led a dissolute life, and his flimsy 
soul, unable to sustain the shock of death, was at once dissipated. 
The soul of a priest who had just expired happened to be float- 
ing by, and, led by that desire to inhabit a body which some say 
impelled the devils to enter the herd of swine, it took possession 
of the still warm corpse. 

The young nobleman was a Confucian of the modern type. 
The idea of the soul changing its earthy tenement is Buddhistic. 
And that which rendered the metamorphosis possible, without 
waiting for another birth, was the Tauist doctrine that the soul 
is dissolved with the body, unless it be purified and concentrated 
by vigorous discipline. 

It is curious to inquire on what principles this reconciliation 
has been effected. Have the three creeds mingled together like 
gases in the atmosphere, each contributing some ingredient to 
the composition of a vital fluid ; or blended like the rays of the 
spectrum, each imparting its own hue, and all concurring in the 
production of light ? Alas ! it is not a healthy atmosphere that 
supplies the breath of the new-born soul in China; no pure or 
steady light cheers its opening eyes. Yet each of these systems 



meets a want ; and the whole, taken together, supplies the crav- 
ings of nature as well perhaps as any creed not derived from a 
divine revelation. 

The Three Religions are not, as the natives thoughtlessly as- 
sume, identical in signification and differing only in their mode 
of expression. As we have already seen, it is hardly possible to 
conceive of three creeds more totally distinct or radically antag- 
onistic ; and yet, to a certain extent, they are supplementary. 
And to this it is that they owe their union and their perma- 

Confucius gave his people an elaborate theory of their social 
organization and civil polity ; but when they looked abroad on 
nature with its unsolved problems, they were unable to confine 
their thoughts within the limits of his cautious positivism. They 
were fascinated by mystery, and felt that in nature there were 
elements of the supernatural which they could not ignore, even 
if they did not understand them. Hence the rise of Tauism, 
captivating the imagination by its hierarchy of spirits and per- 
sonified powers, and meeting, in some degree, the longing for a 
future life by maintaining, though under hard conditions, the 
possible achievement of a corporeal immortality. 

With the momentous question of existence suspended on this 
bare possibility, Buddhism came to them like an evangel of hope, 
assuring every man of an inalienable interest in a life to come. 
It gave them a better psychology of the human mind than they 
had before possessed ; afforded a plausible explanation of the in- 
equalities in the condition of men ; and, by the theory of me- 
tempsychosis, seemed to reveal the link that connects man with 
the lower animals, on the one hand, and with the gods, on the 
other. No wonder it excited the popular mind to a pitch of 
enthusiasm, and provoked the adherents of the other creeds to 
virulent opposition. 

Tauism, as opposed to it, became more decidedly material, 
and Confucianism more positively atheistic. The disciples of 


the latter especially assailed it with acrimonious controversy 
denying, though they had hitherto been silent on such questions, 
the personality of God and the future life of the human soul. 

Now, however, the effervescence of passions has died away 
the antagonistic elements have long since neutralized each other, 
and the three creeds have subsided into a stable equilibrium, or 
rather become compacted into a firm conglomerate. The ethi- 
cal, the physical, and the metaphysical live together in harmony. 
The school that denies the existence of matter, that which oc- 
cupies itself wholly with the properties of matter, and that, 
again, which denounces the subtleties of both have ceased their 
controversies. One deriving its motive from the fear of death, 
another actuated by a dread of the evils attendant on human 
life, and the third absorbed in the present and indifferent alike 
to hope or fear, all are accepted with equal faith by an unreason- 
ing populace. Without perceiving their points of discrepancy, 
or understanding the manner in which they supplement each 
other, they accept each as answering to certain cravings of their 
inward nature, and blend them all in a huge heterogeneous and 
incongruous creed. 

It would be interesting to inquire, had we sufficient space, 
what have been the intellectual and moral influences of these 
several systems, separate and combined. They have, it is true, 
given rise to various forms of degrading superstition, and, sup- 
porting instead of destroying each other, they bind the mind 
of the nation in threefold fetters ; still, we are inclined to think 
that each has served a useful purpose in the long education of 
the Chinese people. But, in the providence of God, the time 
has now come when they are offered a better faith one which 
is in every part consistent with itself and adequate to satisfy all 
their spiritual necessities. Will they receive it ? The habit of 
receiving such contradictory systems has rendered their minds 
almost incapable of weighing evidence ; and they never ask con- 
cerning a religion " is it true ?" but " is it good ?" Christianity, 


however, with its exclusive and peremptory claims, has already 
begun to arouse their attention ; and when the spirit of inquiry 
is once thoroughly awakened, the San Kiao, or Three Creeds, 
will not long sustain the ordeal. 

NOTE. As the reader may be at a loss to reconcile some of 
the statements in the foregoing article, it may not be amiss to 
remind him that each of the Three Systems appears under a 
twofold aspect first as an esoteric philosophy, and afterwards as 
a popular religion. Thus a chief object of the discipline en- 
joined by the founder of Buddhism was the extinction of indi- 
vidual consciousness ; yet the Chinese embraced it as their best 
assurance of a future life. What the philosopher was anxious 
to cast away, the populace were eager to possess. 



WIDELY as the Chinese have departed from the meagre out- 
line of a religious system left them by Confucius, they have 
generally adhered to his moral teachings. Developed by his 
followers, received by the suffrages of the whole people, and en- 
forced by the sanctions of the Three Religions, the principles 
which he inculcated may be said to have moulded the social life 
of one third of the human family. These are nowhere to be 
found digested into a scientific form, but diffused through the 
mingled masses of physics and metaphysics which compose the 
Sing-li Ta-tseuen, or sparkling in the detached apothegms of 
"The Sages." Happily for our convenience we have them 
brought to a focus in the chart a translation of which is given 

We shall confine ourselves to the task of explaining this im- 
portant document, as the best method of exhibiting the system 
in its practical influence; though an independent view would 
afford freer scope for developing its principles. 

This chart is anonymous; but the want of a name detracts 
nothing from its value. The author has no merit beyond the 
idea of presenting the subject in a tabular view, and the pic- 
torial taste with which he has executed the design. Of the 
ethical system so exhibited he originated nothing ; and the pop- 
ularity of his work is due mainly to the fact that it is regarded 

* Read before the American Oriental Society in 1861 ; published in the 
Princeton Review, 1862. 


as a faithful synopsis of the Confucian morals. In this view it 
is highly esteemed by the Sien-sengs of Ningpo, a city which 
ranks among the foremost in the Chinese Empire in point of 
literary culture.* 

The half-illuminated sphere prefixed to the chart has scarcely 
more connection with its subject-matter than the royal coat-of- 
arms stamped on the title-page of some editions has with the 
contents of King James's Bible. It represents the mundane egg, 
or mass of chaotic matter, containing Yin and Yang, the semi- 
nal principles from whose action and reaction all things were 
evolved. Woo-keih produced Tai-keih ; Tai-keih produced Yin 
and Yang ; and these dual principles generated all things. This 
is the lucid cosmogony of the Chinese ; and it adds little to its 
clearness to render the above terms, as they are usually translated, 
by the " great extreme," the " male and female powers," etc. 

The primitive signification of Yang and Yin is light and 
darkness, a meaning exhibited in the shading of the diagram. 
Tai-keih may be rendered the Great Finite, and Woo-keih, the 
Indefinite or Infinite. We have, then, the following statement 
as the starting-point of their philosophy and history : 

The Infinite produced the Finite (the conditioned), and the 
Finite evolved light and darkness. The passage, thus given, is 
rational. It admits a creative power anterior to chaos, makes 
the production of light one of the earliest of creative acts, and, 
with at least poetical truth, ascribes the generation of all things 
to the action of light and darkness, or the succession of days 
and seasons. It is so far consonant with the Genesis of the 
Christian Scriptures. Whether it was ever so understood, it is 
impossible to affirm ; though it is certain that no such meaning 
is attached to it at the present day. 

The dual principles of the Chinese, as explained by them- 
selves, are not light and darkness ; neither are they, like those 

* The chart was obtained at Ningpo. 


of the ancient Persians, the antagonistic powers of good and 
evil. The creation and preservation of the universe are ascribed 
to them ; and yet they are not regarded as deities, but as un- 
conscious impersonal agents. Popularly they are understood, 
in a phallic sense, as the energies of the universal sexual system ; 
and philosophically as certain forces, positive and negative, to 
which, automatic and uncontrolled by any intelligence, are ref- 
erable all the changes in the universe. They are the pillars of a 
materialistic atheism. 

Part I. is an epitome of the Tahio, the first of the four chief 
canonical books of the Chinese, and the most admired produc- 
tion of their great philosopher.* 

Voluminous as an editor, piously embalming the relics of an- 
tiquity, Confucius occupies but a small space as an author; a 
slender compend of history and this little tract of a few hun- 
dred words being the only original works which emanated from 
his own pen. The latter, the title of which signifies the " Great 
Study," is prized so highly for the elegance of its style and the 
depth of its wisdom that it may often be seen inscribed in let- 
ters of gold, and suspended as an ornamental tableau in the 
mansions of the rich. It treats of the Practice of Virtue and 
the Art of Government ; and in the following table these two 
subjects are arranged in parallel columns. In the first we have 
the lineaments of a perfect character superscribed by the word 
Sheng, a " Holy Sage," the name which the Chinese give to 
their ideal. In the other we have a catalogue of the social vir- 
tues as they spread in widening circles through the family, the 
neighborhood, the State, and the world. These are ranged un- 
der Wang, the " Emperor," whose duty it is to cherish them 
in his subjects, the force of example being his chief instru- 
ment, and the cultivation of personal virtue his first obligation. 

* The doctrines of Confucius are well exhibited in an article by the Rev. 
J. K. Wight, in the Princeton Review for April, 1858. 

i the True Tradition of the Holy Sages, 
btains this doctrine may live in pros- 
die in peace. I have accordingly con- 
ito a chart, to be hung on the right of 
:hair. to aid your study of virtue, just 
ents made use of inscriptions on their 

;eded, and established order in society. 

;h free scope for its exercise, it makes a 
teformer of the World a True King. 
His aim is, 

The means to its attainment are 

Filial Piety. 
Fraternal Love. 
Conjugal Fidelity. 
Care in Choice of Associates. 
Strictness in Intercourse of the Sexes. 
| Attention to Established Rules. 
Instruction to Children. 
Caution against Partiality. 
Harmony with Neighbors. 

[ Regard for Frugality. 
r Science of Government. 
Power of Combination. 

Reverence for Heaven and Ancestors. 
Discrimination in Choice of Agents. 
Love for the People. 
Zeal for Education. 
v Strictness in Executing the Laws. 
' Wisdom in Conducting War. [ments. 
Righteousness in Rewards and Punish- 
Liberality in Admittingthe Expression 
of Sentiment. 
Frugality in Expenditures. 
Skill in Legislation. 


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arnal Lusts. 
f j Shameless Exccsse 
ing 10 < Abomin . lb i e Immo 


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mg to j violent Extortion. 


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Sensual Pleasure. 
1 Anger, Strife, etc. 
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I Repressing Self-love, 
< and 
( Curbing Animal Appe 
Guarding against the Df 
( Not Injuring one's Bo 
{ Not Forgetting the Re 
( trol. 

pursues this course will i 
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Momentarily keep it in mind. 
Jpirit. Give all their dues, and let not self set up an opp 
ing interest; but find your own good in the c< 
mon weal. 
, Do not to others what you would not have done to y 
Remember not old injuries, and treat men accord 
to their several capacity. 
Hety. Gratify the wishes of your parents, and wors 
your ancestors ; [nai 
Carry out their purposes, and reflect honor on tl 
-Treat all children with kindness, not your own only 
Pity the widow and fatherless, and give succor to br 
animals. Fina 

limity. A great soul can bear an offence without resc 
He mingles with men on easy terms, aud affects 
Kindness must be repaid, but not injury. 
Rather suffer a wrong than do one. 

Ige of Man. Detect false pretences; cleave to the vir 

Ige of Nature. Be erudite, inquisitive, thoughtful, disi 
ige of Fate. Practise virtue, take care of yourself, do 
he Eyes and Ears. Keep the distant in clear view, 
hearken uot 

Proceeding from an inward feeling. 
It manifests itself in apparel and demeanor. 
Treasures the fruits of observation, hides the bad, i 

publishes the good. 
It preserves conjugal harmony, and maintains decor 
in the intercourse of the sexes. 
y. When rich, feels poor; when full, feels empty. 
Makes no boast of abilities, nor prides itself on pi 

or reputation. 
:e. Declines much, and takes little; 
Aud is only solicitous to tind a lower place than oth< 

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The passage which is here analyzed, and which constitutes the 
foundation of the whole treatise, is the following : 

"Those ancient princes who desired to promote the practice 
of virtue throughout the world first took care to govern their 
own states. In order to govern their states, they first regulated 
their own families. In order to regulate their families, they first 
practised virtue in their own persons. In order to the practice 
of personal virtue, they first cultivated right feeling. In order 
to insure right feeling, they first had regard to the correctness of 
their purposes. In order to secure correctness of purpose, they 
extended their intelligence. This intelligence is to be obtained 
by inquiring into the nature of things." 

This diminishing series is beautiful. However widely the 
branches may extend, the quality of their fruit is determined by 
the common root. Virtue in the State depends on virtue in the 
family, that of the family on that of the individual ; and indi- 
vidual virtue depends not only on right feelings and proper mo- 
tives, but, as a last condition, on right knowledge. Nor is there 
anything in which Confucius more strikingly exhibits the clear- 
ness of his perceptions than in indicating the direction in which 
this indispensable intelligence is to be sought viz., in the nature 
of things ; in understanding the relations which the individual 
sustains to society and the universe. The knowledge of these is 
truth, conformity to them is virtue ; and moral obligations, Con- 
fucius appears, with Dr. Samuel Clarke, to have derived from a 
perception of these relations, and a sense of inherent fitness in 
the nature of things. Just at this point we have a notable hia- 
tus. The editor tells us the chapter on the Study of " Nature " 
is wanting; and Chinese scholars have never ceased to deplore 
its loss. 

But whatever of value to the student of virtue it may have 
contained, it certainly did not contain the " beginning of wis- 
dom." For skilfully as Confucius had woven the chain of hu- 
man relationships, he failed to connect the last link with heaven 


to point out the highest class of our relations. Not only, 
therefore, is one grand division of our duties a blank in his sys- 
tem, but it is destitute of that higher light and those stronger 
motives which are necessary to stimulate to the performance of 
the most familiar offices. 

The young mandarin who said to a member of one of our 
recent embassies, in answer to a question as to his object in life, 
that " he was desirous of performing all his duties to God and 
man," was not speaking in the language of the Confucian 
school. He had discovered a new world in our moral relations 
which was unknown to the ancient philosopher. 

The principal relations of the individual to society are copious- 
ly illustrated in this and the other classics. They are five the 
governmental, parental, conjugal, fraternal, and that of friend- 
ship. The first is the comprehensive subject of the treatise ; 
and in the second column of the chart all the others are placed 
subordinate to it. Though not expressly named, they are im- 
plied in the statement of the first four relative duties filial 
piety, fraternal love, conjugal fidelity, and choice of associates. 
The last comprehends the principles which regulate general in- 
tercourse. Conjugal fidelity, in the sense of chastity, is made 
obligatory only on the female. Fraternal duty requires a rigid 
subordination, according to the gradation of age, which is aided 
by a peculiarity of language; each elder brother being called 
hiung, and each younger te ; no common designation, like that 
of " brother," placing them on equal footing. This arrangement 
in the family Confucius pronounces a discipline, in which re- 
spect is taught for superiors in civil life ; and filial piety, he 
adds, is a sentiment which a son who has imbibed it at home 
will carry into the service of his prince. 

Nothing, in fact, is more characteristic of Chinese society than 
the scope given to filial piety. Intensified into a religious senti- 
ment by the worship which he renders to his ancestors, it leads 
the dutiful son to live and act in all situations with reference to 


his parents. He seeks reputation for the sake of reflecting hon- 
or upon them, and dreads disgrace chiefly through fear of bring- 
ing reproach on their name. An un kindness to a relative is a 
sin against them, in forgetting the ties of a common ancestry ; 
and even a violation of the law derives its turpitude from expos- 
ing the parents of the offender to suffer with him, in person or 
in reputation. 

It is thus analogous in the universality of its application to 
the incentive which the Christian derives from his relation to the 
" Father of spirits ;" and if inferior in its efficacy, it is yet far 
more efficacious than any which a pagan religion is capable of 
supplying. Its various bearings are beautifully traced by Con- 
fucius in a discourse which constitutes one of the favorite text- 
books in the schools of China. 

It is not the book that teaches it, but the art of governing 
thus founded on the practice of virtue, that is emphatically de- 
nominated the " Great Study ;" and this designation, expressing, 
as it does, the judgment of one from whose authority there is no 
appeal, has contributed to give ethics a decided preponderance 
among the studies of the Chinese. 

Other sciences, in their estimation, may be interesting as 
sources of intellectual diversion or useful in a subordinate de- 
gree, as promotive of material prosperity ; but this is the science, 
whose knowledge is wisdom, whose practice is virtue, and whose 
result is happiness. In the literary examinations, the grand ob- 
ject of which is the selection of men who are qualified for the 
service of the government, an acquaintance with subjects of this 
kind contributes more to official promotion than all other intel- 
lectual acquirements ; and when the aspirant for honors has 
reached the summit of the scale, and become a member of the 
Privy Council or Premier of the Empire, he receives no higher 
appellation than that of Tahio she a Doctor of the Great 
Study, an adept in the art of government. 

The Chinese Empire has never realized the Utopia of Confu- 


cius ; but his maxims have influenced its policy to such an ex- 
tent that in the arrangements of the government a marked pref- 
erence is given to moral over material interests. Indeed, it 
would be hard to overestimate the influence which has been ex- 
erted by this little schedule of political ethics, occupying, as it 
has, so prominent a place in the Chinese mind for four-and- 
twenty centuries teaching the people to regard the Empire as 
a vast family, and the Emperor to rule by moral influence, mak- 
ing the goal of his ambition not the wealth, but the virtue, of 
his subjects. It is certain that the doctrines which it embodies 
have been largely efficient in rendering China what she is, the 
most ancient and the most populous of existing nations. 

Part II. is chiefly interesting for the views it presents of the 
condition of human nature. It is not, as its title would seem to 
indicate, a map of the moral faculties ; but simply a delineation 
of the two ways which invite the footsteps of every human pil- 
grim. On the one hand are traced the virtues that conduct to 
happiness ; on the other the vices that lead to misery. Over 
the former is written Tao-sin, " Wisdom Heart," and over the 
latter, Jin-sin, " Human Heart," as descriptive of the dispositions 
from which they respectively proceed. 

These terms, with the two sentences of the chart in which 
they occur, originated in the Shu-king, one of the oldest of the 
sacred books, and are there ascribed to the Emperor Shun, who 
filled the throne about B.C. 2100. Quaint and ill-defined, they 
have been retained in use through this long period as a simple 
expression for an obvious truth, recording as the result of a na- 
tion's experience that " to err is human." They contain no nice 
distinction as to the extent to which our nature is infected with 
evil ; but intimate that its general condition is such that the 
word human may fairly be placed in antithesis to wisdom and 

Yet the prevailing view of human nature maintained by Chi- 
nese ethical writers is that of its radical goodness. Though less 


ancient than the other, this latter is by no means a modern opin- 
ion ; and it is not a little remarkable that some of those ques- 
tions which agitated the Christian Church in the fifth century 
were discussed in China nearly a thousand years before. They 
were not broached by Confucius. His genius was not inquisi- 
tive ; he was rather an architect seeking to construct a noble 
edifice, than a chemist testing his materials by minute analysis. 
And if none are philosophers but those who follow the clew of 
truth through the mazes of psychological and metaphysical spec- 
ulation, then he has no right to the title ;* but if one who loves 
wisdom, perceiving it by intuition and recommending it with au- 
thority, be a philosopher, there are few on -the roll of time who 
deserve a higher position. 

The next age, however, was characterized by a spirit of inves- 
tigation which was due to his influence only as the intellectual 
impulse which he communicated set it to thinking. The moral 
quality of human nature became a principal subject of discus- 
sion ; and every position admitted by the subject was successive- 
ly occupied by some leading rnind. Tsz-sze, the grandson of the 
Sage, advanced a theory which implied the goodness of -human 
nature; but Mencius, his disciple (B.C. 317), was the first who 
distinctly enunciated the doctrine. Kaoutsze, one of his con- 
temporaries, maintained that nature is destitute of any moral 
tendency, and wholly passive under the plastic hand of educa- 
tion. A discussion arose between them, a fragment of which, 
preserved in the works of Mencius, will serve to exhibit their 
mode of disputation as well as the position of the parties. 

Nature, said Kaoutsze, is a stick of timber, and goodness is 
the vessel that is carved out of it. 

1 " Perhaps the subtile genius of Greece was in part withheld from indulg- 
ing study in ethical controversy by the influence of Socrates, who was much 
more a teacher of virtue than even a searcher after truth." SIR J. MACKIN- 
TOSH, Progress of Ethical Philosophy. 


The bowl, replied Mencius, is not a natural product of the 
timber ; but the tree requires to be destroyed in order to pro- 
duce it. Is it necessary to destroy man's nature in order to 
make him good? 

Then, said Kaoutsze, varying his illustration, human nature 
may be compared to a stream of water. Open a sluice to the east, 
and it flows to the east; open one to the west, it flows to the 
westward. Equally indifferent is human nature with regard to 
good and evil. 

Water, rejoined Mencius, is indifferent as to the east or the 
west ; but has it no choice between up and down ? Now hu- 
man nature inclines to good, as water does to run downward ; 
and the evil it does is the effect of interference, jnst as water 
may be forced to run up hill. Man, he repeats, with rhetoric 
slightly at variance with his philosophy, inclines to virtue, as 
water does to flow downward, or as the wild beast does to seek 
the forest. 

A few years later, Seuntsze, an acute and powerful writer, took 
the ground that human nature is evil. The influence of educa- 
tion he extolled in even higher terms than Kaoutsze, maintain- 
ing that whatever good it produces, it achieves by a triumph 
over nature which is taught to yield obedience to the dictates of 
prudence : that virtue is the slow result of teaching, and vice 
the spontaneous fruit of neglected nature. 

Yang-tsze, about the commencement of the Christian era, en- 
deavored to combine these opposite views ; each contained im- 
portant truth, but neither of them the whole truth. While hu- 
man nature possessed benevolent affections and a conscience 
approving of good, it had also perverse desires and a will that 
chose the evil. It was therefore both bad and good ; and the 
character of each individual took its complexion, as virtuous or 
vicious, according to the class of qualities most cultivated. 

In the great controversy, Mencius gained the day. The two 
authors last named were placed on the Index Expurgatonus of 


the literary tribunal ; and the advocate of human nature was 
promoted to the second place among the oracles of the Empire 
for having added a new doctrine or developed a latent one in the 
Confucian system. This tenet is expressed in the first line of 
the San-tsze-king, an elementary book, which is committed to 
memory by every schoolboy in China Jin che ts'u, sin pen 
shan " Man commences life with a virtuous nature." But not- 
withstanding this addition to the national creed, the ancient 
aphorism of Shun is still held in esteem ; and a genuine Con- 
fucian, in drawing a genealogical tree of the vices, still places 
the root of evil in the human heart. 

To remove this contradiction, Chuhe, the authorized exposi- 
tor of the classics, devised a theory somewhat similar to Plato's 
account of the origin of evil. It evidently partakes of the three 
principal systems above referred to ; professing, according to the 
first, to vindicate the original goodness of human nature, yet ad- 
mitting, with another, that it contains some elements of evil 
and thus virtually symbolizing with the third, which represents 
it as of a mixed character. " The bright principle of virtue," he 
says in his notes on the Taiho, " man derives from his heavenly 
origin ; and his pure spirit, when undarkened, comprehends all 
truth, and is adequate to every occasion. But it is obstructed 
by the physical constitution and beclouded by the animal (lit. 
jin-yuh, the human) desires, so that it becomes obscure." 

The source of virtue, as indicated in the chart, is Taiho 
" primordial harmony ;" and vice is ascribed to the influence of 
Wu-hing " gross matter." The moral character is determined 
by the prevailing influence, and mankind are accordingly divided 
into three classes, which are thus described in a popular formula : 
Men of the first class are good without teaching; those of the 
second may be made good by teaching ; and the last will con- 
tinue bad in spite of teaching. 

The received doctrine in relation to human nature does not 
oppose such a serious obstacle as might at first be imagined to 


the reception of Christianity, though there is reason to fear that 
it may tinge the complexion of Christian theology. The candid 
and thoughtful will recognize in the Bible a complete view of a 
subject which their various theories had only presented in de- 
tached fragments. In the state of primitive purity, it gives 
them a heaven-imparted nature in its original perfection ; in the 
supremacy of conscience, it admits a fact on which they rely as 
the main support of their doctrine ; in the corruption of nature, 
introduced by sin, it gives them a class of facts to which their 
consciousness abundantly testifies ; and in its plan for the resto- 
ration of the moral ruin, it excites hope and satisfies reason. 

The doctrine of human goodness, though supported by a par- 
tial view of facts, seems rather to have been suggested by views 
of expediency. Mencius denounced the tenets of Kaoutsze as 
pernicious to the cause of morality, and he no doubt considered 
that to convince men that they are endowed with a virtuous nat- 
ure is the most effectual method of encouraging them to the 
practice of virtue. In the absence of revelation, there is nothing 
better. But while faith in ourselves is a strong motive, faith in 
God is a stronger one ; and while the view that man is endowed 
with a noble nature, which he only needs to develop according 
to its own generous instincts, is sublime, there is yet one which 
is more sublime viz., that while fallen man is striving for the re- 
covery of his divine original, he must work with fear and trem- 
bling, because it is God that worketh in him.* 

Part III., the Chart of Moral Excellence (as I have called it, 
or, more literally, of that which is to be striven after and held to), 
presents us with goodness in all its forms known to the Chinese. 
It is chiefly remarkable for its grouping, the entire domain be- 

* The writer acknowledges a hint or two on this branch of the subject 
from an able paper of the Rev. Griffith John, in the Journal of tJie North 
China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society for September, 1860, which, 
however, did not come to hand until this article had assumed its present 
form and been read on a public occasion. 


ing divided into five families, each ranged under a parent virtue. 
The Greeks and Komans reckoned four cardinal virtues ; but a 
difference in the mode of division implies no incompleteness in 
the treatment of the subject. The Chinese do not, because they 
count 'only twelve hours in the day instead of twenty-four, pre- 
termit any portion of time ; neither, when they number twenty- 
eight signs in the zodiac, instead of twelve, do they assign an 
undue length to the starry girdle of the heavens. The classifica- 
tion is altogether arbitrary ; and Cicero makes four virtues cover 
the whole ground which the Chinese moralist refers to five. 

But while, in a formal treatise, definition and explanation may 
supply the defects of nomenclature or arrangement, the terms of 
a general class, like that of the cardinal virtues, are not without 
effect on the popular mind. In this respect the Chinese have 
the advantage. Theirs are Jin, E, Che, Sin, Le Benevolence, 
Justice, Wisdom, Good Faith, Politeness. * Those of Plato and 
Tully are Justice, Prudence,. Fortitude, and Temperance. In 
comparing these, Prudence and Wisdom may be taken as identi- 
cal, though the former appears to be rather more circumscribed 
in its sphere and tinged with the idea of self-interest. Temper- 
ance and Politeness, as explained in the respective systems, are 
also identical the Latin term contemplating man as an indi- 
vidual, and the Chinese regarding him as a member of society. 
The former, Cicero defines as TO irpiirov, and a sense of propriety 
or love of order is precisely the meaning which the Chinese give 
to the latter. In the European code, the prominence given to 
Fortitude is Characteristic of a martial people, among whom, at 
an earlier period, under the name of apertj, it usurped the entire 
realm of virtue. In the progress of society, it was compelled to 

* Though politeness is the common acceptation of the term as expressing 
& regard for propriety and order in social intercourse, in Chinese ethics it 
has a wider and higher signification. It is precisely what Malebranche 
makes the basis of his moral system and denominates " the love of univer- 
sal order." 


yield the throne to Justice and accept the place of a vassal, both 
Greek and Latin moralists asserting that no degree of courage 
which is not exerted in a righteous cause is worthy of a better 
appellation than that of audacity. They erred, therefore, in giv- 
ing it the position of a cardinal virtue, and the Chinese have ex- 
hibited more discrimination by placing it in the retinue of Jus- 
tice. They describe it by two words, Chih and Yung. Con- 
nected with the former, and explaining its idea, we read the pre- 
cept, " When you fail, seek help in yourself ; stand firm to your 
post, and let no vague desires draw you from it." Appended to 
the latter we have the injunction, " When you see the right, do 
it ; when you know a fault, correct it. Neither yield to excess, 
if rich, nor swerve from right, if poor." What a noble concep- 
tion of moral courage, of true fortitude ! 

Benevolence and good faith, which are quite subordinate in 
the heathen systems of the West, in that of China are each pro- 
moted to the leadership of a grand division. In fact, the whole 
tone of the Chinese morals, as exhibited in the names and order 
of their cardinal virtues, is quite consonant with the spirit of 
Christianity. * Benevolence leads the way in prompting to posi- 
tive efforts for the good of others; justice follows, to regulate 
its actions and restrain its antagonistic qualities ; wisdom sheds 

* Cicero thus argues that there could be no occasion for the exercise of 
any virtue in a state of perfect blessedness, taking up the cardinal virtues 
seriatim : " Si nobis, cum ex hac vita migraremus, in beatorum insulis, ut 
fabulae ferunt, immortale aevum degere liceret, quid opus esset eloquentia, 
cum judicia nulla fierent ? aut ipsi* etiam virtutibus ? Nee enim fortitudine 
indigeremus, nullo proposito aut labore aut periculo; necjustitia, cum esset 
nihil quod appeteretur alieni ; nee temperantia, quae regeret eas quae nullae 
essent libidines ; ne prudentia quidem egeremus, nullo proposito delectu bo- 
norum et malorum. Una igitur essemus beati cognitione rerum et scientia." 
He has failed to conceive, as Sir J. Mackintosh well suggests, that there 
would still be room for the exercise of love of benevolence. The Chinese, 
educated to regard benevolence as the prime virtue of life, would naturally 
give it the first place in his ideal of the future state. 


her light over both ; good faith imparts the stability necessary 
to success ; politeness, or a sense of propriety, by bringing the 
whole conduct into harmony with the fitness of things, com- 
pletes the radiant circle ; and he whose character is adorned with all 
these qualities may be safely pronounced totus teres atque rotundus. 

The theory of moral sentiments early engaged the attention 
of Chinese philosophers, and particularly the inquiry as to the 
origin and nature of our benevolent affections. Some, like 
Locke and Paley, regarded them as wholly artificial the work 
of education. Others, like Hobbes and Mandeville, represented 
them as spontaneous and natural, but still no more than varied 
phases of that one ubiquitous Proteus self-love. Mencius, 
with Bishop Butler, views them as disinterested and original. 
To establish this, he resorts to his favorite mode of reasoning, 
and supposes the case of a spectator moved by the misfortune 
of a child falling into a well. Hobbes would have described the 
pity of the beholder as the fruit of self-love acting through the 
imagination the " fiction of future calamity to himself." Men- 
cius says his efforts to rescue the child would be incited, not by 
a desire to secure the friendship of its parents or the praise of 
his neighbors, nor even to relieve himself from the pain occa- 
sioned by the cries of the child, but by a spontaneous feeling 
which pities distress and seeks to alleviate it. 

The man who thus vindicates our nature from the charge of 
selfishness in its best affections sometimes expatiates on their so- 
cial utility. He does so, however, only to repress utilitarianism 
of a more sordid type. When the Prince of Liang inquired 
what he had brought to enrich his kingdom, "Nothing," 
he replied, "but benevolence and justice;" and he then pro- 
ceeded to show, with eloquent earnestness, how the pursuit of 
wealth would tend to anarchy, while that of virtue would insure 
happiness and peace. An earlier writer, Meh-tsze, * made the 

* See an interesting paper on the writings of Meh-tsze, by the Rev. J. Ed- 


principle of benevolence the root of all the virtues ; and in ad- 
vocating the duty of equal and universal love, he seems to have 
anticipated the fundamental maxim of Jonathan Edwards that 
virtue consists in love to being as such, and in proportion to the 
amount of being. This led him to utter the noble sentiment 
that he would " submit his body t<5 be crushed to atoms if by 
so doing he could benefit mankind." 

The doctrine of Meh-tsze is rejected by the moralists of the 
established school as heretical, on the ground of its inconsistency 
with the exercise in due degree of the relative affections, such as 
filial piety, fraternal love, etc. They adopted a more cautious 
criterion of virtue that of the moderate exercise of all the'nat- 
ural faculties. Virtus est medium vitiorum et utrinque reduc- 
tum is with them a familiar maxim. One of the Four Books, 
the Chung Yung, is founded on it. But instead of treating the 
subject with the inductive accuracy with which it is elaborated 
by Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics, the author kindles with 
the idea of absolute perfection, and indites a sublime rhapsody 
on the character of him who holds on his way, undeviating and 
unimpeded, between a twofold phalanx of opposing vices. 

Part IV. is the counterpart of the preceding, and is interest- 
ing mainly on account of the use for which it is designed. The 
whole chart is practical, and is intended, the author tells us, to 
be suspended in the chamber of the student as a constant mon- 
itor. The terms in which he states this contain an allusion to 
a sentiment engraved by one of the ancient emperors on his 
wash-basin : " Let my heart be daily cleansed and renewed, and 
be kept clean and new forever." This part of his work has for 
its special object to aid the reader in detecting the moral impu- 
rities that may have attached themselves to his character, and 
carrying forward a process of daily and constant improvement. 

kins, in the Journal of the North China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 
for May, 1859. 


To some it may be a matter of surprise to find this exercise at 
all in vogue in a country where a divine religion has not impart- 
ed the highest degree of earnestness in the pursuit of virtue- 
The number who practise it is not large; but even in pagan 
China, the thorny path of self-knowledge exhibits " here and 
there a traveller." - 

Tsang-fu-tsze, an eminent disciple of Confucius, and the Xen- 
ophon of his Memorabilia, thus describes his own practice : " I 
every day examine myself on three points. In exeftions on be- 
half of others, have I been unfaithful? In intercourse with oth- 
ers, have I been untrue ? The instruction I have heard, have I 
made my own ?" 

An example so revered could not remain without imitators. 
Whether any of them has surpassed the model is doubtful ; but 
his "three points" they have multiplied into the bristling array 
displayed in the chart, which they daily press in to their bosoms, 
as some papal ascetics were wont to do their jagged belts. 
Some of them, in order to secure greater fidelity in this unpleas- 
ant duty, are accustomed to perform it in the family temple, 
where they imagine their hearts laid bare to the view of their 
ancestors, and derive encouragement from their supposed ap- 
proval. The practice is a beautiful one, but it indicates a want. 
It shows that human virtue is conscious of her weakness; and 
in climbing the roughest steeps feels compelled to lean on the 
arm of religion. 

In a few cases this impressive form of domestic piety may 
prove efficacious ; but the benefit is due to a figment of the im- 
agination similar to that which Epictetus recommends when he 
suggests that the student of virtue shall conceive himself to be 
living in the presence of Socrates. If fancy is thus operative, 
how much more effectual must faith be that faith which rises 
into knowledge and makes one realize that he is acting under 
the eye of ever-present Deity ! 

It is one of the glories of Christianity that by diffusing this 


sentiment she has made virtue not an occasional visitor to our 
earth, but brought her down to dwell familiarly with men. 
What otherwise would have been only the severe discipline of 
a few philosophers she has made the daily habit of myriads.* 
How many persons in how many lands now close each day of 
life by comparing every item of their conduct with a far more per- 
fect " chart for self-examination" than our author has furnished ?f 
Next to the knowledge of right and wrong Confucius placed 
"sincerity of purpose" in pursuing the right as an essential in 
the practice of virtue ; but as he expressed only the vaguest no- 
tions of a Supreme Being, and enjoined for popular observance 
no higher form of religion than the worship of the ancestral 
manes, a sense of responsibility, and, by consequence, " sincerity 
of purpose," are sadly deficient among his disciples. Some of 
the more earnest, on meeting with a religion which reveals to 
them a heart-searching God, a sin-atoning Saviour, a soul-sancti- 
fying Spirit, and an immortality of bliss, have joyfully embraced 
it, confessing that they find therein motives and supports of 
which their own system is wholly destitute. 


On this sheet (the chart above translated) we have a projec- 
tion of the national mind. It indicates the high grade in the 
scale of civilization attained by the people among whom it orig- 
inated, exhibiting all the elements of an elaborate socialism. 
Political ethics are skilfully connected with private morals ; and 
the virtues and vices are marshalled in a vast array, which re- 
quired an advanced state of society for their development. 

* " Religion," says Sir James Mackintosh, speaking of Plato," had not then, 
besides her own discoveries, brought down the most awful and the most 
beautiful forms of moral truth to the humblest station in human society." 

f There are many evening hymns in which the review of the day is beau- 
tifully and touchingly expressed, but in none perhaps better than in that of 
Gellert commencing " Ein tag ist wieder hin." 



The accuracy with which these various traits of character are 
noted implies the same thing ; and the correctness of the moral 
judgments here recorded infers something more than culture 
it discloses a grand fact of our nature, that, whatever may be 
thought of innate ideas, it contains inherent principles which 
produce the same fruits in all climates. 

These tables indicate, at the same time, that the Chinese have 
made less proficiency in the study of mind than in that of mor- 
als. This is evident from some confusion (more observable in 
the original than in the translation) of faculties, sentiments, and 
actions. The system is, on the whole, pretty well arranged ; but 
there are errors and omissions enough to show that their ethics, 
like their physics, are merely the records of phenomena which 
they observe ab extra without investigating their causes and re- 
lations. While they expatiate on the virtues, they make but lit- 
tle inquiry into the nature of virtue ; while insisting on various 
duties, they never discuss the ground of obligation ; and while 
duties are copiously expounded, not a word is said on the sub- 
ject of rights. 

The combined influence of an idolatrous religion and a des- 
potic government, under which there can be no such motto as 
Dieu et mon droit, may account for this latter deficiency. But 
similar lacunas are traceable in so many directions that we are 
compelled to seek their explanation in a subjective cause in 
some peculiarity of the Chinese mind. 

They have, for instance, no system of psychology, and the 
only rude attempt at the formation of one consists in an enu- 
meration of the organs of perception. These they express as 
wu-kwan, the " five senses." But what are they ? The eyes, 
ears, nose, mouth ; and not the skin or nerves, but the heart 
the sense of touch, which alone possesses the power of waking 
us from the Brahma dream of a universe floating in our own 
brain, and convincing us of the objective reality of an external 
world, being utterly ignored ; to say nothing of the absurdity of 


classing the " heart " the intellect (for so they intend the word) 
with those passive media of intelligence. 

This elementary effort dates from the celebrated Mencius; 
and perhaps for that very reason the mind of the moderns has 
not advanced beyond it, as one of their pious emperors abdicat- 
ed the throne rather than be guilty of reigning longer than his 

Another instance of philosophical classification equally an- 
cient, equally authoritative, and equally absurd, is that of the 
five elements. They are given as kin, muh, shwuy, ho, tu 
i. e. metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. Now, not to force this 
into a disparaging contrast with the results of our recent science, 
which recognizes nothing as an element but an ultimate form of 
matter, we may fairly compare it with the popular division of 
" four elements." 

The principle of classification being the enumeration of the 
leading forms of inorganic matter which enter into the composi- 
tion of organic bodies, the Chinese have violated it by introduc- 
ing wood into the category; and they evince an obtuseness of 
observation utterly inconsistent with the possession of philosophic 
talent in not perceiving the important part which atmospheric 
air performs in the formation of other bodies. The extent to 
which they adhere to the quintal enumeration or classification 
by "fives" illustrates, in a rather ludicrous manner, the same 
want of discrimination. Thus, while in mind they have the 
five senses, and in matter the five elements, in morals they reck- 
on five virtues, in society five relations, in astronomy five plan- 
ets, in ethnology five races, in optics five colors, in music five 
notes, in the culinary art five tastes; and, not to extend the 
catalogue, they divide the horizon into five quarters. 

These instances evince a want of analytical power; and the 
deficiency is still further displayed in the absence of any analysis 
of the sounds of their language until they were brought acquaint- 
ed with the alphabetical Sanscrit; the non-existence, to the pres- 


ent day, of any inquiry into the forms of speech which might 
be called a grammar, or of any investigation of the processes of 
reasoning corresponding with our logic ; and the fact that while 
they have soared into the attenuated atmosphere of ontological 
speculation, they have left all the regions of physical and ab- 
stract science almost as trackless as the arctic snows. 

It would be superfluous to vindicate the Chinese from the 
charge of mental inferiority in the presence of that immense so- 
cial and political organization which has held together so many 
millions of people for so many thousands of years, and espe- 
cially of arts, now dropping their golden fruits into the lap of our 
own civilization, whose roots can be traced to the soil of that an- 
cient empire. But a strange defect must be admitted in the na- 
tional mind. We think, however, that it is more in its develop- 
ment than in its constitution, and may be accounted for by the 
influence of education. 

If we include in that term all the influences that affect the 
mind, the first place is due to language ; and a language whose 
primary idea is the representation of the objects of sense, and 
which is so imperfect a vehicle of abstract thought that it is in- 
capable of expressing by single words such ideas as space, qual- 
ity, relation, etc., must have seriously obstructed the exercise of 
the intellect in that direction. A servile reverence for antiquity 
which makes it sacrilege to alter the crude systems of the an- 
cients increased the difficultyj and the government brought it 
to the last degree of aggravation by admitting, in the public-ser- 
vice examinations, a very limited number of authors, with their 
expositors, to whose opinions conformity is encouraged by hon- 
ors, and from whom dissent is punished by disgrace. 

These fetters can only be stricken off by the hand of Chris- 
tianity ; and we are not extravagant in predicting that a stupen- 
dous intellectual revolution will attend its progress. Revealing 
an omnipresent God as Lord of the Conscience, it will add a new 
hemisphere to the world of morals; stimulating inquiry in the 


spirit of the precept "Prove all things, hold fast that which is 
good," it will subvert the blind principle of deference ; and per- 
haps its grandest achievement in the work of mental emancipation 
may be the superseding of the ancient ideographic language by 
providing a medium better adapted to the purposes of a Chris- 
tian civilization. It would only be a repetition of historic tri- 
umphs if some of the vernacular dialects, raised from the depths 
where they now lie in neglect, and shaped by the forces which 
heave them to the surface, should be made, under the influence 
of Christianity, to teem with the rich productions of a new lit- 
erature, philosophy, and science. 

N. B. These charts are here appended in the original language 
for the benefit of students of Chinese. 

V s - 



* n^xsNV* '>m 






A PHILOSOPHICAL theory is always to be found at the root of 
a religion. It is accordingly only by a comparative study of 
their religions that we can hope to arrive at the fundamental 
conceptions of mankind as to the system of the universe. Ram- 
ifying into an infinity of forms, these conceptions are capable of 
being reduced to a few simple elements ; some religions starting 
from a triad of powers, others from a duality, etc. These terms 
"do not, in all cases, mean the same thing; indeed, the Anal- 
ogy is often limited to a mere numerical correspondence, as we 
shall see when we come to compare the dualism of China with 
that of Persia. As an introduction to the subject, I avail my- 
self of an ancient treatise on the religion of the Egyptians. 

The superstitions of classical antiquity have been transmitted 
to us through a thousand channels; but two writers only have 
given us anything like a philosophical view of the religion of 
the ancients. These are Cicero and Plutarch. Deeply serious 
and profoundly erudite, both exercised the mature vigor of their 
powers on the all-absorbing question of man's relation to the 
supernatural. The Roman has left us the results of his inquiries 
in the Qucestiones Tusculance, and especially in his treatise De 
Natura Deorum. The Greek, besides numerous other works, 
has embodied his theology in a disquisition concerning Isis and 
Osiris, or the religion of the Egyptians. The former is well 
known, but the latter is comparatively rare ; and we accordingly 
propose to give it a cursory review with reference to its bearing 

* From the Chinese Recorder, September, 1867. 


on certain systems current in Oriental countries at the present 
day. The edition we make use of is that of Gustav Parthey, 
Berlin, 1850. We are not aware that this treatise has ever ap- 
peared in an English dress. 

Plutarch's philosophy is not profound. It never essays the 
sublime flights of Plato or the searching analysis of Aristotle; 
neither is it recommended by originality of thought or grace of 
diction. Its chief characteristic is a certain comprehensiveness 
of view, based on a wide induction of particulars. And in this 
consists its value ; for the reader, however he may dissent from 
the reasoning of the author, will not fail to thank him for the 
variety of curious information which he has collected. A Neo- 
platonist brought up at the feet of Ammonius, he learned from 
his preceptor to apply that universal solvent, not unknown in 
more modern times, which renders the terms of all religious 
creeds mutually convertible. The secret of his process is found 
in the one word " allegory ;" and in applying it he always treats 
with reverence the most insignificant and even discrepant details, 
looking on them all as cerements of mummied truth. His exor- 
dium well expresses the spirit of his undertaking, and touches 
in our bosoms a chord of melancholy sympathy. 

" O Clea !" he exclaims, addressing a learned lady who was a 
votary of the Egyptian goddess " O Clea ! as it becomes those 
who are endowed with reason to look to the gods for every 
good, especially should we, in entering on an inquiry concern- 
ing themselves, seek to be guided by them as far as it is possible 
for the mind of man to penetrate. . . . For neither silver nor 
gold, nor thunders and lightnings, but wisdom and knowledge, 
constitute the felicity of the Divine Being. If these attributes 
were withdrawn, his immortal existence would no longer be a 
life, but merely a sterile duration. The search for truth is 
therefore a striving after the divine a holier work than any 
ceremonial purifications or cloistered devotion." 

From such a beginning we would expect his track to brighten 


at every step ; but it is painful to read the conclusion which he 
arrives at after a survey of the whole field. The search for 
truth is not always successful. Briefly setting forth his own 
system, he says (p. 78), "The beginnings of all things are not 
to be placed, with Deraocritus and Epicurus, in certain inanimate 
corpuscles ; nor are we to suppose, with the Stoics, that there is 
but one mind [\oyoc], or providence [irp&wa], which made all 
things out of primordial matter destitute of quality [i. e. impart- 
ed to matter its properties], and which now presides over the af- 
fairs of the universe. For it is impossible that there should be 
anything evil if God were the cause of all, or anything good if 
God were the cause of nothing." This dictum, while it shows 
that Plutarch was stumbling at that immemorial snare of philos- 
ophers, the origin of evil, also shows how far he falls in grasp of 
intellect behind the sublime optimism of the great founder of 
his school. He goes on, "The most ancient doctrine, whose 
origin is unknown, in which a faith firm and inextinguishable 
everywhere prevails, expressed not in words, but in rite* and sac- 
rifices, is that the universe is not moved as an automaton, with- 
out any mind or governor ; neither is there merely a single Lo- 
gos, who rules and guides it as with rudder or rein. But all 
things proceed from a twofold origin from two antagonistic 
powers, of whom one would lead in the right way, but the other 
opposes and frustrates his purposes, so that life is a mingled cup, 
and the world (at least so much of it as lies beneath the moon) 
a mingled scene of good and ill. For if nothing exists without 
a cause, and good cannot be the cause of evil, it follows that 
both good and evil must be derived from independent sources." 
" This," he adds, " is the opinion of the wisest as well as the 
most numerous portion of mankind," and he startles us by the 
assertion in another place that it was avowed by Plato himself 
towards the close of his life. " In the book on Legislation," he 
says, "Plato, divesting his language of enigmatical symbols and 
calling things by their right names, declares that the world is 


moved not by one soul, but perhaps by many, by two at the 
least one beneficent, the other of the opposite character." 

This doctrine Plutarch finds inculcated in the religion of 
Egypt a religion neither lucid nor profound, but one which he 
tells us was regarded with reverence by such men as Solon, 
Thales, Plato, and Pythagoras. In reciting the myth by which 
it is veiled, he admonishes his fair pupil that when she hears of 
the gods wandering from place to place, and being torn limb 
from limb, she is not to imagine that anything of the kind ever 
occurred ; for the Egyptians were wont to express their ideas in 
figurative forms, and to conceal them under shadowy symbols. 
Having illustrated this by examples, he proceeds to relate the 
legend of Isis and Osiris. 

Those beneficent deities, united in happy wedlock, were as- 
sailed by the spite of the malignant Typhon. By a stratagem, 
this evil being succeeded in inducing Osiris to lie down in a 
chest or coffin, when, nailing it fast, he committed it to the wa- 
ters of the Nile to carry out to sea. Isis, in disconsolate widow- 
hood, wanders far and wide in quest of her husband's remains. 
Being received by the King of Byblus, and employed as a do- 
mestic, she seeks to requite his kindness, while nursing an infant 
prince, by subjecting the child to a process of annealing, with a 
view to rendering it immortal. The Queen, terrified at the fiery 
ordeal, cries out and breaks the spell. Here, by a happy acci- 
dent, she recovers the body of her spouse; but not long after, 
Typhon, their implacable enemy, finding her off her guard, tears 
it in pieces, scattering the limbs in distant regions. 

In this it is easy to recognize the story of Ceres and Proser- 
pine, which, however, in point of poetic taste, is a great improve- 
ment on the Egyptian original. It is easy, too, to see how the 
wild fancy of a superstitious and unlettered age might give birth 
to a thousand such fables ; but it is not so easy to conceive how 
any truth, physical or moral, can be grafted on such a stock. 
Plutarch, however, discovers in it a world of meaning, and recites 


its minutest details not a few savoring of grossness and ob- 
scenity because the Egyptian hierophants had thought fit to 
make it the vehicle of their mystic lore. It is edifying to ob- 
serve how he labors to extract from it a rational theory of the 

Setting out with two principles, he suddenly finds himself en- 
cumbered with three, which are required to correspond with the 
three leading characters in the myth not to speak of many oth- 
ers which have a subordinate place in the legend, and each of 
which, in the exposition, must be represented by some force, 
power, or principle. Instead of representing the simple antithe- 
sis of good and evil, he makes Typhon stand alone (though the 
story gives him a wife) for the energy of evil ; and subdivides 
the beneficent power into two parts, assigning a portion of its 
functions to each of the favorite deities. But before he reaches 
this result, he flounders through a quicksand of conflicting in- 
terpretations, repudiating some and adopting others with as much 
discrimination as the Roman pantheon exercised in admitting the 
gods of the Gentiles. In following his uncertain steps, we are 
compelled to condense many pages into few. 

Some, he says, make this myth or saga a traditionary history 
of the ancient kings ; and some make it a personification of the 
Nile fructifying the soil of Egypt, and of the sea in turn swal- 
lowing up the river. But the wiser priests do not limit the in- 
terpretation so narrowly. According to them, Osiris is not mere- 
ly the Nile, but the principle of moisture (water), and Typhon 
the antagonistic principle of drought or fire. Others look on 
Typhon as the sun, and on Osiris as the moon ; and others still 
understand by Typhon the shadow of the earth which envelops 
the moon during an eclipse. The Egyptians also exhibit Osiris 
in human form, clothed with a robe of flame, and representing 
the sun as an embodiment of the beneficent power. Some plain- 
ly call the sun Osiris, and maintain that Isis was no other than 
the moon, hence her statue is crowned with horns. They rep- 


resent Osiris by an eye and a sceptre, and Typhon by a hip- 
popotamus. Manetho makes Typhon iron, and Horns loadstone 
Horns, the son, taking the place of the dead Osiris, and his 
transforming influence over the hearts of men being compared 
to that of a magnet, which imparts its own properties to the 
metal which it attracts. 

After comparing these deities to the cabalistic numbers of 
the Pythagoreans, and to the sides of a triangle, Plutarch offers 
an explanation of his own. In the human soul, Osiris is the 
understanding, and Typhon the passions. In nature, Osiris is 
the masculine energy, and Isis the female. Again, Osiris is the 
beginning, Isis the continuation, and Horus, their child, the com- 
pletion. In a word, disorder is Typhon, while order and beauty 
are the work of Isis the image of the unseen Osiris. 

From this view, it is obvious that not much can be made of 
the myth either by the " best-instructed interpreters," whose 
expositions are directly opposed to each other, or by Plutarch 
himself, whose own opinions are self-contradictory. Indeed, the 
learned author betrays his incapacity for the work he has un- 
dertaken, tantas componere lites, by his performances in the way 
of etymology. 

He says, e.g., " Isis is not a barbarian word, but common alike 
to the Greek and Egyptian languages. It is derived at once 
from two words tTriorjfytj/, understanding, and KtVijerie, motion ; 
just as &de comes from two words Searov, the visible [from 
being invisible?], and 3eW, hastening, the swift." The deriva- 
tion, too, of Osiris from the two Greek words oaiog and tepoc, 
while with equal confidence he points out an Egyptian origin, is 
another specimen which we select from many of that kind of 
reasoning. It is not surprising that one who carries dualism 
into etymology after this fashion should be able to find two co- 
ordinate powers at the root of all things ! 

Dualism, we have seen, was the goal at which Plutarch aimed 
in his laborious investigation of the Egyptian mysteries. The 


veneration in which Egypt was held, as in some sense the father- 
land of Grecian culture its high antiquity, and, above all, the 
currency which the religions of Egypt had obtained in the 
Roman Empire, were circumstances conspiring to stimulate re- 
search and give importance to doctrines supported by Egyp- 
tian testimony. But Plutarch was not content to rest his 
doctrine on the sole authority of the Egyptians. He found ev- 
idence of its prevalence in countries far remote from the banks 
of the Nile, and boldly asserts that dualism is at once the most 
ancient and the most widely disseminated of all creeds. This 
assertion he endeavors to make good by citing analogies in the 
religious philosophy of various nations. He first appeals to the 

Zoroaster, he says, calls the beneficent deity Oromasdes, and 
the malignant one Ahrimanius. The former is symbolized by 
light, the latter by darkness. They are engaged in perpetual 
conflict; yet a time is looked for when Ahrimanius shall be 
overcome, and all mankind lead a life of happiness, dwelling to- 
gether in harmony, and speaking one language. At that time 
they will no longer stand in need of food, and their bodies no 
longer cast a shadow. 

The Chaldeans held the same doctrine, as Plutarch infers from 
the fact of their regarding the planets as deities, and distin- 
guishing them into three classes beneficent, malignant, and in- 

Among the Greeks, he says, the same belief is everywhere ap- 
parent good being referred to the domain of Olympian Jove, 
and evil to that of Hades ; while Harmonia is represented as the 
offspring of Mars and Venus, the happy result from a conflict of 
opposing principles. 

It is unnecessary to follow our author as he traces the dualis- 
tic idea in its various manifestations in the countries referred 
to ; indeed, its existence there might have been presumed, inde- 
pendent of demonstration. With the advantage of a more ex- 


tended view of the world's history, and a wider acquaintance 
with human beliefs, we are able to add considerably to his cata- 
logue of evidences, and to show that, in a vague sense, he is not 
far wrong in predicating universality for a certain kind of dual- 
ism ; though we shall not admit so readily the other claim which 
he makes on its behalf that of primogeniture among the relig- 
ious tenets of the human race. We recognize it in the worship 
of Baal and Astarte among the nations adjacent to Palestine. 
We discover it among the wild superstitions of Northern Eu- 
rope, and may trace it even in the crude theology of the aborig- 
inal Americans. It is more interesting, however, to note the 
form it takes among those great nations of Southern and East- 
ern Asia which stand forth as living monuments of antiquity 
the sole survivors of an extinct world. 

In theory the Hindoos acknowledge a triad, but practically 
they divide their devotions between two antagonistic deities. 
Forgetting their slumbering Brahma, whose work of creation is 
finished, and who no longer interferes with the course of nature, 
they are only anxious to engage the protection of Vishnu, the 
Preserver, or to appease the wrath of Siva, the Destroyer. Nor 
is it unworthy of remark that as the phallos of Osiris was wor- 
shipped in Egypt, so the lingam of Siva is reverenced in India 
as the symbol of reproductive energy, which only finds scope for 
its exercise in consequence of decay and death. 

In China dualism appears under a peculiar form. There are 
not here two deities competing for the popular favor; but we 
find here two classes, called jfy and JjJ, answering very nearly to 
a distinction current among the Greeks, who, as Plutarch tells 
us, designated the good deities by $e6s, and the evil ones by 
laip.t>)v. They have, I admit, other distinctions than those of 
moral qualities; but these are uppermost in the popular idea. 
As we rise, however, from the credulity of vulgar superstition to 
the subtle region of philosophic speculation, these divinities be- 
come divested of their personality and fade into mere forces 


manifestations of the Yin, ^, and the Yang, |^. In these last 
terms we have the true basis of Chinese dualism. As they are 
used to express the distinctions of sex, they are often called the 
male and female principles; and it is undeniable that in the 
mind of a native a sexual idea is attached to each, while the two 
together are looked upon as containing the seminal elements of 
the universe. 

Evidence, however, is not wanting to show that this concep- 
tion had no place in the minds of those who originated the Chi- 
nese language. The characters speak for themselves, and fur- 
nish us with a perfect mirror of the original idea signifying 
respectively " the luminous " and " the dark." In this sense 
they are applied to the sun and moon, the latter being called 
T'ai Yin not as dark in itself, but as presiding over the realm 
of darkness. Light was recognized as an active agent in the 
production of physical changes ; and darkness, not less impor- 
tant to the well-being of the material world, was not discovered 
to be a mere negation, but elevated to the dignity of a co-ordi- 
nate principle. The two together are made the foundation of 
a cosmogony which in the function assigned to light bears some 
analogy to our Scripture account of the order of creation ; and 
the resemblance is still further increased by a faint conception 
of something anterior to Yang, and even prior to chaos. The 
common statement given in Chinese histories* may be freely 

* Chinese histories, like Knickerbocker's History of New York, almost 
always begin with the creation of the world. Speculative writers following 
Chow-tsze give this cosmogony a slight variation by omitting the word 
" produced." " First the indefinite and then the definite [or conditioned]. 
It moved, and there was light [or Yang] ; it rested, and there was darkness 
[or Fin]." They make it a mere sequence, and deny causation. Chu-fu- 
tsze says the "first five terms of the series are so complete that nothing 
can be added to them or taken from them." It is curious to see light con- 
nected with motion. Did the ancient Chinese anticipate the undulatory the- 
ory, and the whole modern doctrine of thermo-dynamics ? The physical 


rendered in the following form : " The indefinite, or $$ | , 
produced the finite or definite, "fa %, the elements of nature as 
yet in a chaotic state. This chaos evolved the principle of Yang, 
or light. The Yang produced Yin, i. e. darkness followed in 
the way of alternation; and the Yin and the Yang together 
produced all things from the alternations of day and night, and 
the succession of the seasons." Commencing with this simple 
idea, the Yin and the Yang have been gradually metamorphosed 
into mysterious entities, the foundation of a universal sexual sys- 
tem, and incessantly active in every department of nature at 
once the fountain of the deepest philosophy and the aliment of 
the grossest superstition.* 

A comparison of the various phases under which the dualistic 
idea manifests itself in different countries would, we believe, tend 
to elucidate some obscure points in the religious history of the 
human race. 

It is customary with a certain school to represent religion as 
altogether the fruit of an intellectual process. It had its birth, 
say they, in ignorance, is modified by every stage in the progress 
of knowledge, and expires when the light of philosophy reaches 

theory which refers everything to the Yin and Yang originates in. the Yih- 
king, the oldest of their sacred books. If tai-ki is matter, then they un- 
doubtedly anticipated the dual bases of modern physics, matter and motion. 
* The orthodox view of kwe and shen is to be found in a passage of the 
Chung-yung. " The Master said vast are the virtues of the kwe-shen /" On 
this dictum of Confucius, Ch'eng-tsze remarks, " The kwe-shen are the forces 
of nature." Chang-tsze calls them " properties of the dual principle Yin- 
yang." Chu-fu-tsze adds, "Kwe are the spirits of the Yin, and shen the 
spirits of the Yang " the term " spirits " (ling) being so vague as to make 
room at once for the negations of atheism, and for all the divinities of poly- 
theism. In a discourse quoted in the Sing-li ta-tsuen, Chu-fu-tsze tries to 
vindicate his masters, the two Ch'engs, from the suspicion of denying the 
existence of spiritual beings, i. e. of gods. " They by no means intended," 
he says, " to assert that there are no such things as spirits, but that there 
are none such as the vulgar believe in." 


its noonday. The fetich gives place to a personification of the 
powers of nature, and this poetic pantheon is in turn superseded 
by the high idea of unity in nature, expressed by monotheism. 

This theory has the merit of verisimilitude. It indicates what 
might be the process if man were left to make his own religion ; 
but it has the misfortune to be at variance with facts. A wide 
survey of the history of civilized nations (and the history of 
others is beyond reach) shows that the actual process undergone 
by the human mind in its religious development is precisely op- 
posite to that which this theory supposes ; in a word, that man 
was not left to construct his own creed, but that his blundering 
logic has always been active in its attempts to corrupt and ob- 
scure a divine original. The connection subsisting between the 
religious systems of ancient and distant countries presents many 
a problem difficult of solution. Indeed, their mythologies and 
religious rites are generally so distinct as to admit the hypothe- 
sis of an independent origin ; but the simplicity of their earliest 
beliefs exhibits an unmistakable resemblance suggestive of a 
common source. 

China, India, Egypt, and Greece all agree in the monotheistic 
type of their early religion. The Orphic hymns, long before the 
advent of the popular divinities, celebrated the Pantheos, the 
Universal God. The odes compiled by Confucius testify to the 
early worship of Shangte, the Supreme Ruler. The Vedas speak 
of " one unknown true Being, all-present, all-powerful ; the Crea- 
tor, Preserver, and Destroyer of the universe." And in Egypt, 
as late as the time of Plutarch, there were still vestiges of a 
monotheistic worship. " The other Egyptians," he says, " all 
made offerings at the tombs of the sacred beasts ; but the in- 
habitants of the Thebaid stood alone in making no such offer- 
ings, not regarding as a god anything that can die, and acknowl- 
edging no god but one whom they call Kneph, who had no birth, 
and can have no death." Abraham, in his wanderings, found the 
God of his fathers known and honored in Salem, in Gerar, and 


in Memphis ; while at a later day, Jethro in Midian, and Balaam 
in Mesopotamia, were witnesses that the knowledge of Jehovah 
was not yet extinct in those countries. The first step in the 
corruption of this great traditional truth was probably the sub- 
stitution of two co-ordinate powers instead of the original ONE.* 
These were not always conceived from the same point of view ; 
but the human mind, longing for something like an explanation 
of the mysteries of nature, generally seized on two leading forces 
or principles, and deified them as the foundation of a crude the- 
ory of the universe. The Persians, struck with the existence of 
moral disorder, explained it by the conflict of Oromasdes and 
Ahrimanius. The Hindoos, impressed by the vicissitudes of our 
mortal state, personified their ideas in a Preserver and a Destroy- 
er ; and the Chinese, attracted by the most striking of all phys- 
ical phenomena, pitched on light and darkness as the basis of a 
physical theory. 

* A species of dualism may be discovered in the sentiments, if not the 
doctrines, of the Christian world. Indeed, few persons are aware to what 
extent Christianity has been affected by the dualism of Persia; for the 
truths of revelation, distilling like rain-drops pure from heaven, take their 
color from the channels through which they pass. It is thus that Satan 
comes to appear in the New Testament as a kind of rival deity, a personi- 
fication of the power of evil ; and all Christendom, with but few exceptions, 
has taken the personification for a person and assigned to Satan the divine 
attributes of omnipresence and omniscience, if no others. Now to believe 
that Satan is forever whispering at the ear of every mortal of the many 
millions born into this world, as he was at the ear of Eve ; and that he lit- 
erally marshals his armies for battle against the Lord of Hosts, is to mis- 
take the language of poetry for that of philosophy. It deepens the gloom 
of a world which is already dark enough, and weakens the moral sense by 
detracting from the feeling of responsibility. It places the soul on its guard 
rather against a person than a thing against Satan instead of sin. One 
may reject this relic of magianism without denying the existence of evil 
spirits any more than he does that of good ones. On this subject see Bush- 
nell's Nature and the Supernatural ; see also the Epistle of St. James, 
i. 14. 


Among all the systems that have passed in review, there seems 
to be no family-tie or well-established relationship. In fact, the 
analogies subsisting between them appear to reduce themselves 
to the two ideas of duality and antithesis. A closer connection, 
at first view, seems to exist between the Chinese and Persian sys- 
tems ; but their points of resemblance are accidental, and their 
differences essential. They agree in taking light and darkness 
for symbols; but the Persian makes them symbols of a moral 
idea, the Chinese of physical agents. The former regards them 
as persons; the latter never ascribes to them any attribute of 
personal existence, but assigns them different values under differ- 
ent circumstances, as the x and y of an indeterminate problem 
making them at one time mere terms of distinction, at another 
the elements of the sexual system, and again the active and pas- 
sive agencies that pervade all nature. 

We are safe in concluding that these several systems sprang 
up independently in each nation, as the fruit of their earliest ef- 
forts in the way of speculative thought. But how little that 
speculative thought was able to accomplish for the religious en- 
lightenment of mankind, we have melancholy evidence in the 
fact that each of these dual systems, at a very early period, be- 
gan to put forth the many branches of the polytheistic upas. 
In Persia, Plutarch says, each of the principal deities gave birth 
to half a dozen gods, who took part in their conflict. In Egypt 
and India, a numerous family of deities connect themselves with 
the leading characters ; and in China the two classes of Shin and 
Kwei take their rise from Yin and Yang. Thus, superstition 
takes up a philosophic idea, and perverts it to her own purposes ; 
and human philosophy, without light from on high, is unable to 
oppose any barrier beyond the erection of an altar to the " un- 
known God," inscribed with some such mournful confession as 
that which Plutarch gives us from a temple of Isis " I am all 
that is, or was, or shall be ; and my veil no mortal hand has ever 



" The search itself rewards the pains ; 

So though the chymist his great secret miss, 

For neither it in art nor nature is, 
Yet things well worth his toil he gains, 
And does his charge and labor pay, 
With good unsought experiments by the way." COWLEY. 

ONE in their etymological origin, the words Alchemy and 
Chemistry describe different stages in the progress of the same 
science. The former represents it in its infancy, nursed on the 
bosom of superstition; its field of vision limited to special ob- 
jects, and vainly striving to accomplish the impossible. The 
latter presents it in its maturity, when, emancipated from puerile 
fancies, it claims the realm of nature for its domain, and the 
laws of matter as its proper study. 

In its earlier stage it acknowledged no other aim than the 
pursuit of the philosopher's stone and the elixir of life. In its 
more advanced state it renounces them both, yet it secures sub- 
stantial advantages of scarcely inferior magnitude, alleviating 
disease and prolonging life by the improvements it has intro- 
duced into the practice of medicine; while by the mastery it 
gives us over the elements of nature it surpasses the most san- 
guine expectations of its early votaries.f 

* Read before the American Oriental Society, October, 1868 ; revised and 
published in the China Review, January, 1879. 

f The eminent chemist Dr. J. W. Draper, of New York, in a recent lect- 
ure on evolution, gives ancient alchemists the credit of being the first to 
seize the grand idea of evolution in its widest extent, as " a progress from 
the imperfect to the more perfect, including lifeless as well as living nature, 


Those early votaries, whether they lived and labored in the 
West or East, should not be forgotten. They were the intrepid 
divers who explored the bottom of the stream, and laid the 
foundation for those magnificent arches on which modern sci- 
ence has erected her easy thoroughfare. Like coral insects, 
" building better than they knew," they toiled upward in the 
midst of darkness, guided only by a faint glimmer of the light, 
but without any conception of the extent and richness of the 
new world of knowledge that was destined to spring from their 
ill-directed labors. Heirs of the world's experience, and them- 
selves daring experimenters, we need not be surprised to find 
them in possession of a large mass of empirical information.* 

The old Arabian Geber, as early as the eighth century, was 
acquainted with the preparation of sulphuric acid and aqua re- 
gia,f and gave an elaborate description of the more useful 

In the twelfth century, Albertus Magnus understood the cu- 
pellation of gold and silver, and their purification by means of 
lead, as also the preparation of caustic potassa, ceruse, and minium. 

in an unceasing progression in which all things take part towards a higher 
and nobler state." " In this slow development," he adds, " nature has no 
need to hasten she has eternity to work in ; it is for us to ascertain the 
favoring conditions, and, by imitating or increasing them, to accelerate the 
work." These views are prominent in the writings of all the leading alche- 
mists of China. 

* Cowley expresses this idea in the verses prefixed to this essay, which, 
it must be confessed, contain more truth than poetry. Humboldt (Cosmos, 
vol. ii.) speaks of Albertus. Magnus as " an independent observer in the do- 
main of analytical chemistry ;" and adds, " It is true that his hopes were di- 
rected to the transmutation of metals, but in his attempts to fulfil this ob- 
ject he not only improved the practical manipulation of ores, but also en- 
larged the insight of men into the general mode of action of the chemical 
forces of nature." 

f " Chemistry," says A. von Humboldt, " first begins when men have 
learned to employ mineral acids and powerful solvents." 


In the thirteenth, Roger Bacon described with accuracy the 
properties of saltpetre, giving the recipe for gunpowder, and 
approaching very nearly to the explanation of the functions of 
air in combustion. 

In the same century, Raymond Lully described the process of 
obtaining the essential oils ; and, a little later, Basil Valentine ob- 
tained copper from blue vitriol by the use of iron ; and discov- 
ered antimony, sulphuric ether, and fulminating gold. Isaac de 
Hollandais fabricated gems and described the process. Brandt, 
while analyzing a human body in quest of the philosopher's 
stone, stumbled on the discovery of phosphorus. 

In the early part of the sixteenth century, Paracelsus did much 
to overthrow the inert methods of the Galenists, and gained a 
great and well-deserved reputation by introducing the use of 
mineral medicines, i. e. of chemical compounds.* This last-named 
individual, though among its more modern professors, may be 
taken as the very best type of the so-called science of alchemy, 
whether in its wisdom or its folly, in the absurdity of its preten- 
sions or in the solid value of its actual achievements. His name, 
Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastes Paracelsus von 
Hohenheim, is synonymous with charlatan ; and his fate sadly 
illustrates the history of his profession, which one of his fellow- 
laborers describes as " beginning in deceit, progressing with toil, 
and ending in beggary." His life was terminated, like those of 
so many professed adepts, by imbibing a draught of his own 
elixir.f Nor was Paracelsus the last victim of this bewitching 

* " With the rise of the Spagyrists and Paracelsus, who taught that the 
true use of chemistry is not to make gold, but medicines, we seem to per- 
ceive the first attempt at a rational pursuit of the study " (review of ar- 
ticle " Chemistry " in the Encyclopaedia Britannica ; Nature, January, 1877). 

t Of martyrs of science of this description, no country can show a longer 
catalogue than China. It may be found in extensn in native polemics against 
the Tauist religion, or scattered through the pages of the national histories. 
It will be sufficient here to refer to the Emperors Mutsung and Wutsung, 



delusion. In 1784, Dr. Price, an English physician, after having 
made gold in the presence of several persons, and presented some 
of the precious product to George III., on being examined by a 
scientific commission, committed suicide to escape the shame of 

In the last xjentury, Dr. Semler, a well-known theologian of 
Germany, also tried the fascinating experiment. A trusty ser- 
vant, to save him from disappointment, stealthily dropped a lit- 
tle gold-leaf into his wonder-working mixture, and the professor 
was, of course, successful. When the experiment was repeated, 
the same servant or some member of his family, to save expense, 
substituted tambac for gold-leaf. The result was an ignomini- 
ous failure ; and but for conscience, fortified by religious princi- 
ple, together with the fact that he was more of a dupe than a 
deceiver, Semler, too, would have hanged or poisoned himself as 
a refuge from disgrace. To these cases, found in most of the 
current books,* may be added the name of Dr. Barnard, " the 
diamond-maker of Sacramento," who, with his feet on the au- 
riferous dust of California, sacrificed his life a few years ago in 
the vain attempt to manufacture something more precious than 
gold. Charging a hollow sphere with the costly ingredients, 
which, on the application of fire, were to crystallize into dia- 
monds, he was blown into the air by a premature explosion, and 
died without revealing the secret of which he believed himself 
to be the sole depositary.f This suggests the possibility that 

of the Tang dynasty, both of whom are said to have shortened their lives by 
drinking a pretended elixir of immortality. 

* Of these one of the most entertaining and instructive is L'Alchimw et 
les Alchimistes, by Louis Figuier. 

t His melancholy history was given at length under the title of " The Dia- 
mond-maker of Sacramento," some years ago, in the Overland Monthly, a 
spirited magazine of San Francisco, successively edited by the poet Bret 
Harte, and the Hon. B. P. Avery, late U. S. Minister at Peking. Against the 
possibility of procuring by artificial means transparent crystals of pure car- 


the race of alchemists may not yet be altogether extinct, even 
among us. In Westphalia, an association of alchemists existed 
under the name of Societas Hermetica as late as the year 1819; 
and in Canada the papers tell us of a man who recently (1877) 
committed suicide for the avowed purpose of testing the virtues 
of a restorative elixir which he professed to have invented.* 

In China, the hermetic art still flourishes in full vigor. The 
Abbe Hue, in his History of Christianity in China, relates an 
amusing incident illustrating the ardor with which these perse- 
vering Orientals still continue to pursue the golden phantom. 
When the missionaries established themselves in Chau-ch'ing, in 
Canton province, a company of educated natives possessed of 
considerable means were busily engaged in seeking to solve the 
problem of ages. A servant of the missionaries hinted to them 
that those learned Europeans were already in possession of it. 
Believing his assertion, they began to load him with favors to 
induce him to obtain the secret, for their advantage. They gave 
him fine clothes, and furnished him with money to hire hand- 
some apartments and purchase a beautiful wife ; while he, on 
his part, was in no haste to fulfil his engagement. He was only 
waiting for the Western sphinxes to open their lips. But the 

bon, science does not undertake to pronounce ; and more than one experi- 
menter has claimed to have achieved partial success. 

* By the side of his lifeless corpse a letter was found directing that " a 
few particles of my ' creative all-changeful essence ' be scattered over my re- 
mains, when the elements will resolve themselves into a new combination, 
and I will reappear a living evidence of the truth of this new discovery." 
If these are the words of a madman, they are those of one whose brain was 
turned by the study of alchemy. I have only to add that a large bottle 
containing the elixir was found standing by the letter (Scientific American, 
March 31, 1877). If this poor fellow was the last to offer himself as a sac- 
rifice to the Moloch of alchemy, the last alchemist who succeeded in victim- 
izing the public was the notorious Count Cagliostro, who, after vending his 
"elixir of immortal youth" in most of the courts of Europe, closed his ca- 
reer in a papal prison in 1795. 


patience of his generous victims finally gave out ; or, what is 
more probable, they learned from the missionaries that they had 
no such secret to communicate. To escape their vengeance, the 
crafty rogue was compelled to fly to a neighboring city, where 
he ended his days in a prison. 

If the Chinese are the last to surrender this pleasing delusion, 
there is good reason to believe that they deserve the more honora- 
ble distinction of being the first to originate the idea. 

The origin of an idea so fruitful in results is a question of 
great interest; and many writers have expended on it the re- 
sources of their learning. Some find it in the mythology of the 
Greeks, maintaining (an interpretation older than the Christian 
era) that the golden fleece sought for by the Argonauts was 
merely a sheepskin on which was inscribed the secret of making 
gold;* and this fancy derives, it must be confessed, a little support 
from the circumstance that Medea is represented as possessed of 
the corresponding secret of perpetuating or restoring youth, hav- 
ing cut to pieces and reconstructed her aged father-in-law. 

Some, again, discover the origin of the idea in Egypt, the land 
of Thoth (Hermes Trismegistus), and allege, in corroboration of 
their view, that the ancient Egyptians possessed considerable 
skill in practical chemistry. But the advocates of its Egyptian 
origin are not able to trace it back further than the time of the 
Ptolemies, and students of Hindoo literature maintain that the 
Indians possessed a knowledge of it long before that date, 
though it must not be forgotten that there is nothing more un- 
certain than the chronology of ancient India, f 

* This construction of the legend comes from Dionysius of Mitylene, who 
lived circa B.C. 60. 

t Some instructive disclosures on this subject may be found in a lecture 
of the late Cardinal Wiseman entitled " Early History." It has been as- 
serted by those who claim to be well versed in the history of India that in 
that country the earliest date that can be considered historical is April, B.C. 
327, the date of its invasion by Alexander the Great. 


Others adduce conclusive proof to show that modern Europe 
received it from the Arabs. They have not, however, shown that 
the Arabs were its authors; and seem scarcely to have enter- 
tained a suspicion that those wandering sons of the desert, like 
birds and bees, were nothing more than agents through whom a 
prolific germ was conveyed from some portion of the remoter 
East. What that portion is, the name of Avicenna, one of the 
most eminent of the Arabian scholars, might have served to 
suggest, if they had followed the leading of words as carefully 
as a certain erudite Orientalist* who not only finds in India the 
origin of the doctrines of Pythagoras, but recognizes his name 
under the disguise of Buddhaguru ! For what is Avicenna but 
Ebn-Cinna? And what is Ebn-Cinna or Ibn Sina, as it is some- 
times written, but a " Son of China ?" a designation possibly as- 
sumed by the learned physician because he was born at Bokhara, 
on the confines of the Chinese Empire ! 

If we were as ready to rest in etymologies as the above-cited 
Orientalist, who triumphantly concludes a chapter with that curi- 
ous derivation of the name of Pythagoras, we might consider 
our point as carried. Our etymology is, to say the least, as 
good as his ; but we let it go for what it is worth, and rest our 
argument on better evidence.f 

* Pococke, Greece in India. 

f- Nothing is more fallacious than the attempt to identify words in differ- 
ent languages by means of a mere superficial resemblance. Some years 
ago, in reading the Amour Medecin of Moliere, I fancied I had detected a 
translation in a combined form of the most familiar names for the Chinese 
elixir of life. The word orvietan, which is made so conspicuous in one of 
the scenes, describes a mysterious panacea, whose virtues the vender vaunts 
in strains as pompous as those of the Chinese alchemist. It struck me at 
once that, setting aside the accent, which goes for nothing in etymology, it 
might be taken as expressing -^ W and Jj|. ^ ^", golden elixir, and 
elixir of long life. Littre and the Dictionnaire de V Academic decided 
against me, referring the word to the old city of Orvieto (urbs veins). But, 
whatever the source of the name, the thing itself answers so exactly to the 


It is not improbable, as we shall attempt to show, that the true 
cradle of alchemy was China a country in which one of the old- 
est branches of the human family began their career of experi- 
ence ; a country in which we discover so many of the seeds of 
our modern arts ; germs which, dwarfed and stunted in their na- 
tive climate, have only been made to flourish by a change of soil. 
To establish this would be an interesting contribution to the his- 
tory of science ; and it might perhaps lead us to take an optimistic 
view even of the sins and follies of mankind, to discover that 
our modern chemistry, which is now dropping its mature fruits 
into the hands of Western enterprise, had its root in the religion 
of Tao, the most extravagant of the superstitions of the East. 

We shall briefly sketch the rise and development of alchemy 
in China, and then conclude by comparing it with the leading 
phases of the same pursuit as exhibited in Western countries. 

Originating at the least six hundred years before the Christian 
era,* the religion of Tao still exerts a powerful influence over 

Chinese tan, or elixir, that I cannot forbear quoting a few Hues descriptive 
of its qualities. 

" SganareHe. Monsieur, je vous prie de me donner une boite de votre orvie- 
tan, que je m'en vais vous payer. 
" L 1 Operateur (chantant). 
L'or de tous les climats qu'entoure 1'Ocean, 
Peut-il jamais payer ce secret d'importance ? 
Mon remede guerit, par sa rare excellence, 
Plus de maux qu'on n'en peut nombrer dans tout un an : 

La gale, La rogne, La teigne, La fievre, La peste, La goutte, 

Verole, Descente, Rougeole. 
grande puissance 
De 1'orvietan !" 

The reader may compare this with passages quoted in the sequel from 
Taoist books. 

N.B. Or, in the first line of the description, is an evident allusion to the 
first syllable of the name, which the vender takes to mean " golden." 

* It is indigenous to China ; and though we are unable to trace it to au 


the mind of the Chinese. This is not the place to discuss either 
its sober tenets or its wild fantasies, but there is one of its doc- 
trines that connects it closely with our present subject. It looks 
on the soul as only a more refined form of matter ; regards the 
soul and body as identical in substance, and maintains the pos- 
sibility of preventing their dissolution by a course of physical 
discipline. This is the seed-thought of Chinese alchemy; for 
this materialistic notion it was that first led the disciples of Lao- 
tsze to investigate the properties of matter. 

Its development is easy to trace. Man's first desire is long 
life his second is to be rich. The Taoist commenced with the 
former, but was not long in finding his way to the latter. As it 
was possible by physical discipline to lengthen the period of 
life, he conceived that the process might be carried on without 
limit, and result in corporeal immortality. Its success, in his 
view, depended mainly on diet and medicine ; and in quest of 
these he ransacked the forest, penetrated the earth, and explored 
distant seas. The natural longing for immortality was thus 
made, under the guidance of Taoism, to impart a powerful im- 
pulse to the progress of discovery in three departments of sci- 
ence botany, mineralogy, and geography. Nor did the other 
great object of pursuit remain far in the rear. A few simple 
experiments, such as the precipitation of copper from the oil of 
vitriol by the application of iron, and the blanching of metals 
by the fumes of mercury, suggested the possibility of transform- 
ing the baser metals into gold.* This brought on the stage an- 

earlier date, there is good reason to believe that it is as old as the Chinese 
race. The connection of alchemy with Taoism did not escape the notice of 
the earlier Jesuit missionaries ; but the Rev. Dr. Edkins, in a paper on Tao- 
ism published about twenty years ago, was the first, I believe, to suggest a 
Chinese origin for the alchemy of Europe. 

* Science is not opposed to the abstract theory of transmutation. Indeed, 
the modern chemist has been led by the phenomena of allotropy and isome- 
rism, not to speak of other considerations, almost to accept as a principle 


other, and, if possible, a more energetic, motive for investigation. 
The bare idea of acquiring untold riches by such easy means in- 
spired with a kind of frenzy minds that were hardly capable 
of the loftier conception of immortality. It had, moreover, the 
effect of directing attention particularly to the study of minerals, 
the most prolific field for chemical discovery. 

Whether in the vegetable or the mineral kingdom, the re- 
searches of the Chinese alchemists were guided by one simple 
principle the analogy of man to material nature. As in their 
view the soul was only a more refined species of matter, and was 
endowed with such wondrous powers, so every object in nature, 
they argued, must be possessed of a soul, an essence or spirit, 
which controls its growth and development a something not un- 
like the essentia quinta of Western alchemy. This they believed 
to be the case, not only with animals, which display some of the 
attributes of mind, but with plants, which extract their appropri- 
ate nourishment from the earth, and transform it into fruits; 
and the same with minerals, which they regarded as generated 
in the womb of the earth. It was to this half-spiritual, half- 

what he lately denounced as a groundless assumption of his ancient fore- 
runner viz., that a fundamental unity underlies many, if not all of, the forms 
of matter. On this subject see two interesting papers in the Tolume of Na- 
ture for 1879 (pp. 593, 625) on the question "Are the Elements Elementary?" 
The writer speaks approvingly of the hypothesis of original matter having 
a molecular or atomic structure ; all the molecules being uniform in size 
and in shape, but not all possessed of the same amount of motion the 
difference of their motions giving rise to all the properties of the various 
elements. The speculation which resolves matter into force tends in the 
same direction. " I must confess," says Professor Cook, " that I am rather 
drawn to that view of nature which has favor with many of the most emi- 
nent physicists of the present time, and which sees in the Cosmos, besides 
mind, only two essentially distinct beings namely, matter and energy ; which 
regards all matter as one, and all energy as one ; and which refers the quali- 
ties of substances to the affections of the one substratum modified by the vary- 
ing play of forces" (Lectures on the New Chemistry, lecture iv., International 


material theory that they had recourse to account for the trans- 
formations that are perpetually going on in every department of 
nature. As the active principle in each object was so potent in 
effecting the changes which we constantly observe, they imagined 
that it might attain to a condition of higher development and 
greater efficiency. Such an upward tendency was, in fact, perpet- 
ually at work ; and all things were striving to " purge off their 
baser fires " and enter on a higher and purer state. Nor were 
they merely striving to clothe themselves with material forms 
of a higher order. Matter itself was constantly passing the 
limits of sense and putting on the character of conscious spirit. 
This idea threw over the face of nature a glow of poetry. It 
awakened the torpid imagination and created an epoch in litera- 
ture. It kindled the fancy of Chwang-tsze, inspired the elo- 
quence of Lii-tsu, and it figures in a thousand shapes among the 
graceful tales of the Liau-chai. It filled the earth with fairies 
and genii. An easy step connected them with those mysteri- 
ous points of light which in all ages have excited so powerfully 
the hopes and fears of the human race. Astrology became 
wedded to alchemy, and the five principal planets bear in the 
current language of the present day the names' of the elements 
over which they are regarded as presiding. 

In China, as elsewhere, alchemy has always been an occult 
science. Its students have been pledged to secrecy, and their 
knowledge transmitted mainly by means of oral tradition, each 
adept tracing his lineage back to Hwang-te (B.C. 2700) or 
Kwang-ch'eng-tsze, as the Freemason deduces his pedigree from 
Solomon or Hiram of Tyre.* 

Their doctrines, like the delicate beauties of some Eastern 
climes, were never allowed to go abroad without being covered 
with a veil. They were wrapped in folds of impenetrable mys- 

* Hwang-te is at least semi-mythical. The earliest historical sovereign 
who became a votary of alchemy was Ts'in-she-hwang, the builder of the 
Great Wall, B. C. 220. 



tery, and expressed, for the most part, in the measured lines and 
metaphorical language of poetry. Still, in spite of every pre- 
caution that pride or jealousy was able to suggest, some of their 
secrets would gradually ooze out, and many of the rules for 
working metals now in common use bear in their very terms 
the stamp of an alchemic parentage. 

After this cursory survey, it may not be amiss to introduce a 
few extracts from native authors, professors of the mysterious 
lore, in order to ascertain how far they corroborate the forego- 
ing views, but especially to aid us in deciding whether any 
real connection is to be traced between the Chinese and Eu- 
ropean schools of alchemy. 


The Secret of Immortality* 

" The body is the dwelling-place of life ; the spirits are the 
essence of life ; and the soul is the master of life. When the 
spirits are exhausted, the body becomes sick ; when the soul is 
in repose, the spirits keep their place ; and when the spirits are 
concentrated, the soul becomes indestructible. Those who seek 
the elixir must imitate the Yin and Yang [the active and pas- 
sive principles in nature] and learn the harmony of numbers. 
They must govern the soul and unite their spirit. If the soul 
is a chariot, the spirits are its horses. When the soul and spirits 
are properly yoked together, you are immortal." 

* These extracts are not arranged in the order of time. The antiquity of 
the system will be considered in another place ; and I begin with two from 
writers whose age I am not able to fix with precision. For the citations 
from both I am indebted to a compilation, in twelve volumes, entitled 
5" ^ 3L ^J* T ne name, literally taken, would suggest a work specif- 
ically on the subject of alchemy ; but it is figurative, and means the elixir 
or quintessence of the philosophers. Among the philosophers cited, those 
who favored alchemy are in a very small minority. 



The Power of Miracles. 

"The clouds are a dragon, the wind a tiger. Mind is the 
mother, and matter the child. When the mother summons the 
child, will it dare to disobey ? Those who would expel the 
spirits of evil must (by the force of their mind) summon the 
spirits of the five elements. Those who would conquer serpents 
must obtain the influences of the five planets. By this means 
the Yin and Yang, the dual, forces of nature, may be controlled ; 
winds and clouds collected ; mountains and hills torn up by the 
roots ; and rivers and seas made to spring out of the ground. 
Still the external manifestation of this power is not so good as 
the consciousness of its possession within." 


The Adept Superior to Hunger, Cold, and Sickness. 

" He inhales the fine essence of matter, how can he be hungry ? 
He is warmed by the fire of his own soul, how can he be cold ? 
His five vitals are fed on the essence of the five elements, how 
can he be sick ?" 


Patience Essential to Success. 

" Would you seek the golden tan [the elixir], it is not easy 
to obtain. The three powers [sun, moon, and stars] must seven 
times repeat their footsteps; and the four seasons nine times 
complete their circuit. 

* Lii-tsu (or Lii-yien) flourished in the latter half of the eighth century. In 
early life respected as a scholar and a magistrate, and in later years famed 
for the eloquence of his style and the elevation of his character, he did 
much to revive the decaying credit of the " school of the genii." His works 
are voluminous and well known, but, like most of those ascribed to the great 
masters of Taoism, probably comprehend much that is not genuine. 


" You must wash it white and burn it red ; when one draught 
will give you ten thousand ages, and you will be wafted beyond 
the sphere of sublunary things." 


The Necessity of a Living Teacher. 

" Every one seeks long life, but the secret is not easy to find. 
If you covet the precious things of heaven, you must reject the 
treasures of earth. You must kindle the fire that springs from 
water,* and evolve the Yin contained within the Yang. One 
word from a sapient master, and you possess a draught of the 
golden water." 


The Chief Elements in Alchemy. 

" All things originate from earth. If you can get at the rad- 
ical principle, the spirit of the green dragon is mercury, and the 
water of the white tiger f is lead. The knowing ones snll bring 

* This phrase reminds us of a quaint piece of doggerel from the pen of 
George Ripley, a noted alchemist of England, who died in 1490, notwith- 
standing the medicines recommended in his two books on Alchymie and 
Aurum Potabile. The following are a few of his incomprehensible verses : 

" The well must brenne in water clear, 
Take good heed, for this they fere, 
The fire with water brent shall be, 
The earth on fire shall be set 
And water with fire shall be knit. 

Of the white stone and the red 
Lo, here is the true deed !" 

f Yin and Yang are the dual forces which control the elements of nat- 
ure. Though generally referred to the sexual system, their "chief symbols 
are the sun and moon, and the original signification of the terms is light 
and darkness. The " tiger " and " dragon " are synonyms for the oft-re- 
peated Yin and Yang. Their use in this sense is comparatively ancient, as 


mother and child together, when earth will become heaven, and 
you will be extricated from the power of matter." 


Description of the Philosopher's Stone : Self -culture Necessary to Ob- 
tain it. 

" I must diligently plant my own field. There is within it a 
spiritual germ that may live a thousand years. Its flower is like 
yellow gold. Its bud is not large, but the seeds are round 
[globules of mercury ?] and like to a spotless gem. Its growth 
depends on the soil of the central palace [the heart], but its ir- 
rigation must proceed from a higher fountain [the reason]. 
After nine years of cultivation, root and branch may be trans- 
planted to the heaven of the greater genii." 


Speaking of the labors of his great master, he says, " Among 
the eight stones, he made most use of cinnabar, because from 
that he extracted mercury ; and among the five metals, he made 
most use of lead, because from that he obtained silver. The 
fire of the heart [blood] is red as cinnabar ; and the water of the 
kidneys [urine] is dark as lead. To these must be added sulphur, 
that the compound may be efficacious. Lead is the mother of 
silver, mercury the child of cinnabar. Lead represents the influ- 
ence of the kidneys, mercury that of the heart." 

But "jam claudite rivos" some reader is, no doubt, ready to 
exclaim " enough of this jargon, or rather gibberish." For is it 
not truly gibberish, if Dr. Johnson was correct in deriving that 
word from the name of Geber, the great alchemist ? We must, 
however, plead for the privilege of introducing a few extracts 

we may gather from the title of a book still extant called 6 jf* jjlf , by the 
historian Panku, in the first century of our era. 


from the Wu-chen-pien* a work winch still holds the place of a 
text-book among the followers of Lao-tsze. They will serve to 
indicate the spirit and aim of these operations, though the proc- 
esses are still carefully concealed. In fact, all that is given to 
the public seems merely designed to inflame the imagination, and 
to induce readers to place themselves under the instruction of a 
Tauist master. 

1. The Great Motive. "However long this mortal life, its 
events are all uncertain. He who yesterday bestrode his horse 
so grandly at the head of the street, to-day is a corpse in the 
coffin. His wife and his wealth are his no longer. His sins 
must take their course, and self-deception will do no good. If 
you do not seek the great remedy, how will you find it ? If you 
find out the method and do not prepare it, how unwise are 
you !" 

2. A Vindication. " If the virtuous follow a false doctrine, 
they reclaim it ; but if the vicious profess a true doctrine, they 
pervert it. So it is with the golden elixir : a deviation of an 
inch leads to the error of a mile. If I succeed, then my fate is 
in my own hands, and my body may last as long as the heavens. 
But the vulgar pervert this doctrine to the gratification of low 
desires [such as those for wealth and pleasure]." 

3. Outline of Process. " In the gold-furnace you must sepa- 
rate the mercury from the cinnabar, and in the gemmy bath you 
must precipitate the silver from the water. To wield the fires 
of this divine work is not the task of a day. But out of the 
midst of the pool suddenly the sun rises." f 

* This collection bears the name of the principal tract, 'f^ ^ Jjfc, which 
dates from the beginning of the sixteenth century. It is usually bound up with 
the ;g& [pj 43 , a more weighty production which comes down from the sec- 
ond century. The phrase for the precipitation of silver is "~j 7JC *[<$&. 

f A few years ago I made the acquaintance of a Kiangsi man by the 
name of Hiung, who had published a book of some literary merit, and was 


No one at all acquainted with the operations of chemistry can 
fail to remark how much is implied in this reference to the pre- 
cipitation of silver. Nor can any one familiar with the language 
of Western alchemists avoid being struck by the similarity of the 
terms here employed. As he reads of " separating mercury from 
cinnabar," "precipitating silver," "wielding the fires of the di- 
vine work," the " gemmy bath," and the " sun rising out of the 
pool," does he not fancy himself perusing a fragment from Lully 
or Albertus describing the balneum marice and the production 
of gold ? 

We add three more to our series of illustrative extracts : 

1. The Reason for Obscure and Figurative Phraseology. 
" The holy sage was afraid of betraying the secrets of heaven. 
He accordingly sets forth the true Yin and Yang under the 
images of the white tiger and the green dragon. And the har- 
mony of the two chords he represents under the symbols of the 
true lead and the true mercury." * 

2. Nature of the Inward Harmony. " The two things to be 
united are wuh and wo, % and ^Jj, the me and the not me. 
When these combine, the passions are in harmony with nature, 
and the elements are complete." 

withal an ardent student of the occult science. A manuscript volume of 
his own compilation, which he permitted me to examine, contained, among 
other diagrams, one which represented the sun rising out of a smoking fur- 
nace showing that the hermetic symbol for gold is the same in China as 
in Europe. 

* It is curious to see how Western alchemists exhibit the same phase of 
feeling. Howes, an old writer, quoted in Mr. Lowell's New England of Two 
Centuries Ago, expresses himself thus in a familiar epistle : " Dear friend, I 
desire with all my heart that I might write plainer to you ; but in discover- 
ing the mystery, I may diminish its majesty, and give occasion to the pro- 
fane to abuse it, if it should fall into unworthy hands." The mystery was 
the unity of matter. He adds, " As there is all good to be found in unity, 
and all evil in duality and multiplicity, plvxnvt ilia admiranda sola semper 


In other passages we have noticed the outcropping of a moral 
idea. In this we find a materialistic doctrine suddenly meta- 
morphosed into the most subtle form of pantheistic idealism. 

3. Self-discipline the Best Elixir (from Tan-tsze, not in Wu- 
chen-pien). " Among the arts of the alchemist is that of pre- 
paring an elixir which may be used as a substitute for food. 
This is certainly true; yet the ability to enjoy abundance or 
endure hunger comes not from the elixir, but from the fixed 
purpose of him who uses it. When a man has arrived at such 
a stage of progress that to have and not to have are the same ; 
when life and death are one ; when feeling is in harmony with 
nature, and the inner and the outer worlds united then he can 
escape the thraldom of matter, and leave sun, moon, and stars 
behind his back. To him it will then be of no consequence 
whether he eat a hundred times in a day, or only once in a hun- 
dred days." We might fill volumes with similar extracts with- 
out, w r e fear, adding much to the information of our readers. 

The composition of the elixir was a secret which the alche- 
mist did not care to divulge. If, therefore, we seek for precise 
directions for its preparation in the writings of a professed 
adept, we seek in vain. 

There is, indeed, one oft-repeated formula, which appears to 
be absurdly simple. It is this : " Pb. 8 oz., Hg. -^ Ib. ; mix thor- 
oughly, and the combination will result in a mass of the golden 
elixir." But it ceases to be simple when we learn that both 
metals and proportions are to be taken in a mystical sense; 
that, in fact, instead of indicating the materials of the elixir, 
they only point to the precise moment when the final touch is 
to be given to a complicated process viz., one minute after the 
full of the moon. If this resolves itself into " moonshine," 
another, which has the air of being more in detail, is still less 
luminous. "Plant the Yang and grow the Yin; cultivate and 
cherish the precious seed. When it springs up, it shows a yel- 
low bud ; the bud produces mercury, and the mercury crystallizes 


into granules like grains of golden millet. One grain is to be 
taken at a dose, and the doses repeated for a hundred days, when 
the body will be transformed and the bones converted into gold. 
Body and spirit will both be endowed with miraculous proper- 
ties, and their duration will have no end." These recipes are 
both from standard text-books of the Taoist school.* 

* The former is from the 'fj J| J| ; the latter from ^ ^ fifa z . 
Kohhung (or Pao-pu-tsze Simplicius), of the fourth century, is one of the 
most voluminous writers on the subject. He gives nine varieties of the tan, 
but no clear account of the preparation of any of them. The following 
extract from his work may serve to show the kind of reasoning by which 
he and his fellows suffered themselves to be deluded : 


pi Jtj- tjA 

l It m 

ft A . it . M . ' .* 3L * '&' 
& T tttXJI^^^RW 

PI ^a -^ 1 + ^ S tf 

HB B * 4 IT E 7 $ tt 

"I formerly thought the Taoist mystery was intended to delude simple 
folk, and that there was nothing in it but empty words ; but when I saw 
the Emperor Wu subject Tso-tse and others to a fast of nearly a month 
their complexion continuing fresh and their strength unabated I said 
there was no reason why they should not extend the fast to fifty years. 

"Another Taoist, Kan-shi, placed a number of fish in boiling oil; some 
of them having first swallowed a few drops of an elixir, swam about as if 
they were in the water, the others were boiled so that they could be eaten. 

" Silk-worms taking the same medicine lived for ten months ; chickens 
and young dogs taking it ceased to grow; and a white dog on taking it 
turned black ; all of which shows that there are things in heaven and earth 


We find a more explicit account of the composition of the 
elixir in the Ko-chi king-yuen, $f Jfc t* W or Mirror of Scien- 
tific Discovery ; but here again we are not favored with anything 
beyond a barren inventory of ingredients, without any statement 
of proportion or manipulation. 

"The elixir of the eight precious things," says this author, 
"is so called because it contains cinnabar, orpiment, realgar, sul- 
phur, saltpetre, ammonia, empty green [an ore of cobalt], and 
inother-of-clouds [a kind of mica]." 

This and the other passages above cited throw, we confess, 
very little light on any question of practical science ; but they 
are not unimportant in relation to the history of science, indi- 
cating as they do the spirit and aims of the Chinese alchemists 
the most enthusiastic, and, as we think, the earliest, explorers in 
a region which has proved to be one of inexhaustible fertility. 

The results of their labors in the way of chemical discovery it 
may not be easy to determine ; though it is safe to affirm that, 
for what they knew on that subject prior to their recent inter- 
course with the West, the Chinese are mainly indebted to those 
early devotees of the experimental philosophy who passed their 
lives among the fumes of the alembic. The skill which the 
Chinese exhibit in metallurgy, their brilliant dye-stuffs and nu- 
merous pigments ; their early knowledge of gunpowder,* alcohol, 

surpassing our comprehension. Would that I could break the fetters of 
sense and give my whole heart to the pursuit of the elixir of life !" 

* An able paper, by the late W. F. Mayers, on the origin of gunpowder, 
may be considered as decisive against the claims of the Chinese, unless 
fresh evidence be adduced in their favor. That the Chinese are not indif- 
ferent to the discussion, and that the admissions of one are not accepted by 
all, are sufficiently shown by the following extract from an examination-pa- 
per placed before the candidates for the doctorate in Peking, about twelve 
years ago : " Fire-arms began with the use of rockets in the Chau dynasty. 
In what book do we first meet with the wordjo'ao, fg|, for cannon ? What 
id the difference in the two classes of engines to which it is applied ? (Ap- 


arsenic, Glauber's salt, calomel, and corrosive sublimate ; their 
pyrotechny ; their asphyxiating and anesthetic compounds all 
give evidence of no contemptible proficiency in practical chem- 

In their books of curious receipts, we find instructions for the 
manufacture of sympathetic inks, for removing stains, com- 
pounding and alloying metals, counterfeiting gold, whitening 
copper, overlaying the baser with the precious metals, etc. In 
some of these recipes a caution is added that neither " women, 
cats, nor chickens " be allowed to approach during the process, 
obviously a relic of alchemistic superstition. 

The Hermes of China has no female disciples, though Europe 
can boast the names of not a few. The alchemist of China has 
generally been a celibate, and very frequently a religious ascetic, 
to whom the life-giving elixir, rather than the aurific stone, was 
the chief object of pursuit. 

Lii-tsu, one of the most eminent, is said to have earned im- 
mortality by rejecting the art of making gold.f 

plied also to catapults.) Is the defence of K'ai-feng-fu its first recorded 
use ?" etc. Leaving these questions to the native scholars to whom they 
were addressed, I only add that gunpowder, like many other useful discov- 
eries, probably had more than one independent origin. Its ingredients are 
articles of daily use, and their mode of combination is not limited to any 
definite proportion, so that the failure of the Chinese to hit upon it, after 
ages of chemical research, would be more surprising than their success. 

* See Davis's Chinese, ch. xviii., for a very interesting account of the 
preparation of calomel (chloride of mercury) by a Chinese chemist, and by 
a truly China process. In the same chapter the author sketches the fan- 
tastic physical theories of the Chinese, and adds, "All this looks very 
much as if the philosophy of our forefathers was derived intermediately 
from China." 

t As the legend goes, shortly after commencing the study of the art, he 
was met by one of the old genii, who offered to impart to him the great 
secret of transmutation. " But," asked the young man, " will not the arti- 
ficial gold relapse to its original elements in the course of time ?" " Yes," 
replied the genius, " but that need not concern you, as it will not happen un- 


In the Chinese system there are two processes the one in- 
ward and spiritual, the other outward and material. To obtain 
the greater elixir, involving the attainment of immortality, both 
must be combined ; but the lesser elixir, which answers to the 
philosopher's stone, or a magical control over the powers of 
nature, might be procured with less pains. Both processes were 
pursued in seclusion, commonly in the recesses of the moun- 
tains, the term for adepts signifying " mountain men." * 

In a discourse on metals in one of the works above cited, we 
are told that the seminal principle of gold first assumes the form 
of quicksilver. Exposed to the influence of the moon, it is liq- 
uid ; but when subjected to the action of the pure Yang, the 
sun or the male essence, it solidifies and becomes yellow gold. 
Those who desire to convert quicksilver into gold should carry 
on their operations among the mountains, that the effluences 
from the stones may assist the process. 

Nothing seems to be required in addition to the incidental 
proofs already adduced to establish the existence of a connection 
between the alchemy of Europe and that of China ; still, a few 
considerations in the way of comparison may serve to make the 
nature and extent of that connection somewhat more apparent. 

1. The study of alchemy did not make its appearance in Eu- 
rope until it had been in full vigor in China for at least six cen- 
turies. Nor did it appear there, according to the best authori- 
ties, until the fourth century, when intercourse with the Far 
East had become somewhat frequent. It entered Europe, more- 
til after ten thousand ages." " I decline it then," said Lii-tsu. " I would 
rather live in poverty than bring a loss on my fellow-men, though after ten 
thousand ages." The noble sense of right was more meritorious than any 
number of sham charities ; and the youth who had conscience enough to 
spurn the gilded bait was at once admitted to the heaven of the genii. 

* Probably the older form of the character is fjfr, but no one can doubt 
that the motive which led to the substitution of Ml for the original phonet- 
ic was not merely its simplicity, but its signification as welL 


over, by way of Byzantium and Alexandria, the places in which 
that intercourse was chiefly centred. At a later day it was re- 
vived in the West by the irruption of the Saracens, who may 
be supposed to have had better opportunities for becoming ac- 
quainted with it in consequence of being nearer to its original 
source. One of the most renowned seats of alchemic industry 
was Bagdad while it was the seat of the caliphate. An exten- 
sive commerce was at that period carried on between Arabia and 
China. In the eighth century embassies were interchanged be- 
tween the caliphs and the emperors. Colonies of Arabs were 
established in the seaports of the Empire ; and the grave of a 
cousin of Mahomet remains at Canton as a monument of that 
early intercourse. 

2. The objects of pursuit were in both schools identical, and 
in either case twofold immortality and gold. 

In Europe the former was the less prominent because the peo- 
ple, being in possession of Christianity, had a sufficiently vivid 
faith in a future life to satisfy their instinctive longings without 
having recourse to questionable arts. 

3. In either school there were two elixirs, the greater and the 
less, and the properties ascribed to them corresponded very 

4. The principles underlying both systems are identical in. the 
composite nature of the metals, and their vegetation from a sem- 
inal germ. Indeed, the characters tsing, ^|, for the germ, and tai, 
|fl, for the matrix, which constantly occur in the writings of 
Chinese alchemists, might be taken for the translation of terms 
in the vocabulary of the Western school, did not their higher an- 
tiquity forbid the hypothesis. 

5. The ends in view being the same, the means by which 
they were pursued were nearly identical ; mercury and lead (to 
which sulphur was tertiary) being as conspicuous in the labora- 
tories of the East as mercury and sulphur were in those of the 
West. It is of less significance to add that many other sub- 


stances were common to both schools than it is to note the re- 
markable coincidence that in Chinese as in European alchemy 
the names of the principal reagents are employed in a mystical 

6. Both schools, or at least individuals in both, held the 
strange doctrine of a cycle of changes, in the course of which 
the precious metals revert to their original elements. 

7. Both systems were closely interwoven with astrology. 

8. Both led to the practice of magical arts and unbounded 

9. Both dealt in language of equal extravagance ; and the style 
of European alchemists, so unlike the sobriety of thought char- 
acteristic of the Western mind, would, if considered alone, furnish 
ground for a probable conjecture that their science must have 
had its origin in the fervid fancy of an Oriental people, f 

In conclusion, granting that the leading objects of alchemical 
pursuit are such as might have suggested themselves to the hu- 
man mind in any country, as it felt its way towards an acquaint- 
ance with the forces of nature, yet the similarity of the circum- 
stances with which they are found associated in the West and 
the East forbids the supposition of an independent origin. Set- 
ting aside as untenable the claims of Europe and of Western 
Asia, we regard alchemy as unquestionably a product of the re- 

* Robert Boyle (quoted in Nature, January, 1877) is unsparing in his de- 
nunciation of " those sooty empirics, who have their eyes darkened and 
their brains troubled with the smoke of their furnaces ; and who are wont 
to evince their salt, sulphur, and mercury (to which they give the canting 
title of hypostatical principles) to be the true principle of things." 

f The whimsical idea of the homunculus, which was so prominent in the 
works of the later alchemists of the West, and which plays such a conspic- 
uous role in the second part of Goethe's Faust, is one of which I can find 
no vestige in the records of Eastern alchemy. In the writings of the latter 
school, however, the power of synthetic creation is asserted boldly enough, 
and the idea of producing the homunculus, i. e. of creating a human being by 
an artificial process, is, in fact, only a particular application of the principle. 


moter East. To the honor of being its birthplace, India and 
China are rival claimants. The pretensions of the former* we 
are not in a position to estimate by direct investigation ; but 
they appear to us to be excluded by the proposition, of which 
there is abundant proof, that the alchemy of China is not an ex- 
otic, but a genuine product of the soil of that country. 

As before remarked, it springs from Taoism, an indigenous re- 
ligion ; and shows itself in clearly defined outlines, if not in full 
maturity, at a time when there was little or no intercourse with 
India. Had it appeared some centuries later simultaneously 
with the introduction of Buddhism, there might have been more 
reason to look on it as a foreign importation. In polar antag- 
onism with the idealistic philosophy of Buddha, its fundamental 
tenets are not only found in the ancient manual of Lao-tsze,f 

* That much-lamented sinologue, the late Mr. Mayers, favors the claim of 
India, though, alas ! it is no longer possible to question him as to the grounds 
of his opinion. In his essay on the origin of gunpowder, he says, " It is at 
least allowable to surmise that those Brahmin chemists who, it is almost 
proved, inaugurated tJie search after the philosopher's stone and the elixir 
vitce may have been the first to discover what secret forces are developed 
in the fiery union between sulphur and saltpetre." 

t The famous poet | Jg J^, Pailotien, in a well-known stanza, as- 
serts that the extravagances of alchemy are not to be found there : 

if m ^ -m =t !7C 
; 3 tt ft tf It 

Yet the thoughtful reader cannot fail to discover its latent principles, es- 
pecially the effect of discipline in securing an ascendency over matter, and 
the protean power of transmutation hidden in the forces of nature. The al- 
chemists all claim Lao-tsze as a lineal ancestor, though they derive their or- 
igin from a remoter source. Those who desire to study the relations of Chi- 
nese alchemy to primitive Taoism may, however familiar with the original, 
consult with advantage an excellent translation of the Tao-teh-king, 
jf fj| jf , by Dr. John Chalmers, of Canton. 


they are distinctly traceable in the oldest of the Confucian 

In the Yihking, the diagrams of which are referred to Fuhi, 
B.C. 2800, while the text dates from Wenwang, B.C. 1150, 
and the commentary from Confucius, B.C. 500, we discover at 
length what appears to us the true source of those prolific ideas 
which prepared the way for our modern chemistry. Its name, 
The Book of Changes, is suggestive ; and we find throughout 
its contents the vague idea of change replaced by the more def- 
inite one of " transformation," the key-word of alchemy. 

In the very first section, Wenwang descants on the " changes 
and transmutations of the creative principle ;" and Confucius, in 
several chapters of his commentary, grows eloquent over the 
same theme. " How great," he exclaims, " is change ! How 
wonderful is change \ When heaven and earth were formed, 
change was throned in their midst ; and should change cease 
to take place, heaven and earth would soon cease to exist." 
" The diagrams," he says again, " comprehend the profoundest 
secrets of the universe ; and the power of exciting the various 
motions of the universe depends on their explanation : the pow- 
er to effect transmutation depends on the understanding of the 
diagrams of changes." Here, in a word, is the leading idea of 
the Yihking ; and, at the same time, the general object of Chi- 
nese students of alchemy. Indeed, so thoroughly are their 
works pervaded by the spirit of that venerable epitome of prim- 
itive science that it is impossible to mistake the source from 
which they derive their inspiration. The Taoists, without a dis- 
senting voice, recognize it as the first book in the canon of their 
sect; and the Tyrant of Ts'in, a zealous votary of alchemy, 
spared the Yihking from the flames to which he consigned all 
the other writings of Confucius and his disciples.* 

* The language of the above citations from the Book of Changes is taken, 
with some alterations, from the version of Canon McClatchie, to which the 


AVe have therefore no hesitation in affirming that ALCHEMY 


uninitiated reader is here referred. Those who feel inclined to go deeper 
into the question of the influence of that cabalistic work on the develop- 
ment of Taoism, and especially on alchemy, cannot do better than to read 
the ^ JgJ fe? , Tsan-tung-chi, a work of the second century, for an account 
of which see Wylie's Notes on Chinese Literature, p. 172. 




A PROFESSOR of Chinese in America is reported to have said 
that " in the Chinese language there is no such thing as a florid 
style or a beautiful style. Style is not taken into consideration. 
It is in writing the language that skill is displayed; and the 
man that executes the characters with dexterity and ingenuity is 
the one that understands the language." 

Though somewhat unexpected as coming from the chair of a 
professor, this opinion is not novel. It expresses but too truly 
the estimate in which the literature of China has been generally 
held by the learned world. 

The value of Chinese records is fully conceded. The great 
antiquity of the people ; their accurate system of chronology ; 
their habit of appealing to history as the only tribunal before 
which they can arraign their sovereigns ; and especially their 
practice of noting as a prodigy every strange phenomenon that 
occurs in any department of nature all conspire to render their 
annals an inexhaustible mine of curious and useful information. 
Add that these annals are not restricted to what is known as the 
history of the Empire, but that one or more such works may 
be found recording in minute detail whatever has been thought 
interesting or instructive in the history of every department and 
district, and we have a mass of historical literature that stands 
without a parallel among the nations of the earth. 

It is in these that our savans may find, extending back in un- 
broken series for thousands of years, notices of eclipses, comets, 

* From the New-Englander, April, 1872. 


star-showers, aerolites, droughts, floods, earthquakes, etc., as well 
as a comparatively faithful account of the rise and fortunes of 
the most numerous branch of the human family. 

But, while admitting that it is worth while to encounter all 
the toil of a difficult language in order to gain access to such a 
field of research, who ever dreams that the Chinese language con- 
tains anything else to repay the labor of acquisition ? Who ever 
imagines that in pursuing his favorite game, instead of travers- 
ing deserts and jungles, he will find himself walking among for- 
ests filled with the songs of strange birds and perfumed with the 
fragrance of unknown flowers, while ever and anon he is ravished 
by the view of some landscape of surpassing beauty ? As soon 
would the student of literary art expect to find the graces of dic- 
tion among the hieratic inscriptions of Egypt, or the arrow-head- 
ed records of Assyria, as to meet them on pages that bristle with 
the ideographic symbols of China. It is with a view to correct- 
ing such prevalent impressions that this paper is written. In 
attempting this, however, I do not propose a disquisition on the 
value of Chinese literature in general, nor commit myself to the 
task of elucidating the principles of its rhetoric and grammar; 
but limit myself rather to the single topic of style, and more 
particularly the style of its prose composition. 

This is a subject which, I am aware, it will not be easy to 
discuss in such a manner as to render it intelligible or inter- 
esting to those who are unacquainted with the Chinese lan- 
guage. Style is a volatile quality, which escapes in the process 
of transfusion ; and illustrations of style, however carefully ren- 
dered, are at best but as dried plants and stuffed animals com- 
pared with living nature. Chinese, moreover, being from our 
idiom the most remote of all languages, suffers most in the proc- 
ess of rendering. I fear, therefore, that the best versions I 
may be able to offer will only have the effect of confirming the 
impressions which it is my object to combat. That such im- 
pressions are erroneous ought to be apparent from the mere con- 


sideration of the antiquity and extent of the Chinese literature. 
For, to suppose that a great people have been engaged from a 
time anterior to the rise of any other living language in build- 
ing up a literature, unequalled in amount, which contains noth- 
ing to gratify the taste or feed the imagination, is it not to sup- 
pose its authors destitute of the attributes of our common hu- 
manity ? Are we to believe that the bees of China are so dif- 
ferent from those of other countries that they construct their 
curious cells from a mere love of labor, without ever depositing 
there the sweets on which they are wont to feed ? 

It is not always true that external decoration implies internal 
finish or furniture ; still, we may assert that it would be impos- 
sible that the taste which the Chinese display in the embellish- 
ment of their handwriting and letter-press should not find its 
counterpart in the refinements of style. 

They literally worship their letters. When letters were in- 
vented, they say, heaven rejoiced and hell trembled. Not for 
any consideration will they tread on a piece of lettered paper; 
and to foster this reverence, literary associations employ agents 
to go about the streets, collect waste paper, and burn it on a 
kind of altar with the solemnity of a sacrifice. They execute 
their characters with the painter's brush, and rank writing as 
the very highest of the fine arts. They decorate their dwellings 
and the temples of their gods with ornamental inscriptions ; 
and exercise their ingenuity in varying both chirography and 
orthography in a hundred fantastic ways. We may well ex- 
cuse them for this almost idolatrous admiration for the greatest 
gift of their ancestors, for there is no other language on earth 
whose written characters approach the Chinese in their adapta- 
tion to pictorial effect. 

Yet all this exaggerated attention to the mechanical art of 
writing is but an index of the ardor with which Chinese scholars 
devote themselves to the graces of composition. 

Their style is as varied as their chirography, and as much 


more elaborate than that of other nations. If they spend years 
in learning to write, where others give a few weeks or months 
to the acquisition of that accomplishment,. it is equally true that, 
while in other countries the student acquires a style of compo- 
sition almost by accident, those of China make it the earnest 
study of half a lifetime. 

While, in the lower examinations, elegance of mechanical 
execution, joined to a fair proportion of other merits, is sure to 
achieve success, in competition for the higher degrees the essays 
are copied by official clerks before they meet the eye of the 
examiner ; style is everything, and handwriting nothing. Even 
the matter of the essay is of little consequence in comparison 
with the form in which it is presented. This is perceived and 
lamented by the more intelligent among the Chinese them- 
selves. They often contrast the hollow glitter of the style of 
the present day with the solid simplicity of the ancients ; and 
denounce the art of producing the standard wen-chang, or pol- 
ished essay, as no less mechanical than that of ornamental 
penmanship. The writer has heard Ch'ung-hau, who himself 
wields an elegant pen, speak of the stress which the literary 
tribunals lay on the superficial amenities of style as a "clever 
contrivance adopted by a former dynasty to prevent the literati 
from thinking too much." * 

Still, however sensible to its defects, Chinese scholars, without 
exception, glory in the extent and high refinement of their na- 
tional literature. " We yield to you the palm of science," one 
of them once said to me, after a discussion on their notions of 
nature and its forces ; but he added, " You, of course, will not 
deny to us the meed of letters." 

The Chinese language is not so ill adapted to purposes of 
rhetorical embellishment as might be inferred from its primitive 
structure. Totally destitute of inflection its substantives with- 

* The use of wen-chang as an official test is ascribed to Wang-au-shih, of 
the Sung dynasty, about 1050. 


out declension, its adjectives without comparison, and its verbs 
without conjugation it seems at first view "sans everything" 
that ought to belong to a cultivated tongue. Bound, moreover, 
to a strict order of collocation, which its other deficiencies make 
a necessity, it would seem to be a clumsy instrument for 
thought and expression. Nor do I deny that it is so in com- 
parison with the leading languages of the West ; but it is a 
marvel how fine a polish Chinese scholars have made it receive, 
and what dexterity they acquire in the use of it. It possesses, 
too, some compensating qualities. Its monosyllabic form gives 
it the advantage of concentrated energy ; and if the value of its 
words must be fixed by their position, like numerals in a col- 
umn of figures, or mandarins on an occasion of state cere- 
mony, it makes amends for this inconvenience by admitting 
each character to do duty in all the principal parts of speech. 
In English, we find it to be an element of strength to be able to 
convert many of our nouns into verbs. In Chinese, the inter- 
change is all but universal ; and it is easy to perceive how much 
this circumstance must contribute to variety and vigor of ex- 
pression, as well as to economy of resources. 

The advice which Han-yu gives as to the treatment of the 
Buddhist priesthood is jin ch'i jin lu ch'i chit, kwo ch'i shu ; 
literally, man their men, house their temples, fire their books an 
expression of which all but the- last clause is as unintelligible as 
the original Chinese. To the Chinese reader it means " burn 
their books, make laity of their priests, and dwelling-houses of 
their sacred places;" and in its native form it is as elegant as 
it is terse and forcible. 

Before all things, a Chinese loves conciseness. This taste he 
has inherited from his forefathers of forty centuries ago, who, 
having but a scanty stock of rude emblems, were compelled to 
practise economy. The complexity of the characters and the 
labor of writing confirmed the taste ; so that though the press- 
ure of poverty is now removed, the scholar of the present day, 


in regard to the expenditure of ink, continues to be as parsimo- 
nious as his ancestors. While we construct our sentences so as 
to guard against the possibility of mistake, he is satisfied with 
giving the reader a hint of his meaning. Our style is a ferry- 
boat that carries the reader over without danger or effort on his 
part ; his is only a succession of stepping-stones which test the 
agility of the passenger in leaping from one to another. 

The Chinese writer is not ignorant of the Horatian canon, 
that in " striving after brevity he becomes obscure ;" but with 
him obscurity is a less fault than redundancy. Accordingly, in 
Chinese, those latent ideas to which a French writer has lately 
drawn attention play an important part.* In return for a few 
hints, the reader himself supplies all the links that are necessary 
for the continuity of thought. This intense brevity is better 
adapted to a language which is addressed to the eye than it 
would be to one which is expected to be equally intelligible to 
the ear. Light is quicker than sound. Segnius irritant animos 
demissa per aurem. 

Next to conciseness, or perhaps in preference to it, the Chi- 
nese writer is bound to keep in view the law of symmetry. He 
loves a kind of parallelism ; but it is not that of the Hebrew 
poets, whose tautology he abhors. It may consist of a simile; 
but more frequently it merely amounts to the expression of cor- 
related ideas in nicely corresponding phrases. Every sentence 
is balanced with the utmost precision; every word having its 
proper counterpoise, and the whole composition moving on 
with the measured tread of a troop of soldiers. 

* To say that latent ideas form an essential, often a principal, part of hu- 
man speech is as much a parodox, and yet as true, as to affirm that in read- 
ing we depend on the absence of light, and that the letters are precisely 
what we do not see. In case of an inscription lit up by an electric current, 
the metallic letters, though necessary to convey the fluid, remain invisible, 
and we see only the illuminated intervals. The greater the interstices con- 
sistent with the passage of the spark, the more brilliant the effects. 


Dr. Johnson's famous parallel between Pope and Dryden, and 
the studied antitheses of Lord Macaulay, are quite in accordance 
with the taste of the Chinese. When they meet with such a 
passage in a foreign book, they usually exclaim, " This writer 
knows something of the art of composition." And where, in 
addition to a superfluity of words, they find, as they often do, a 
neglect of their cardinal principle, they do not fail to express 
their disgust. 

A difficulty in rendering the Christian Scriptures is that the 
translator is not at liberty to measure off his periods according 
to the canons of Chinese taste ; and he not unfrequently gives 
unnecessary offence by retaining all the circumstances of gender, 
number, and tense where the sense does not require them, and 
where the genius of the Chinese language and the rules of Chi- 
nese rhetoric alike reject them. In this respect, the earlier 
translations were particularly faulty; and of the more recent 
versions, one at least (that of the Delegates) is distinguished for 
classical taste. 

In such a task, the distinction between the Dolmetscher and 
the Uebersetzer which Schleiermacher has so clearly drawn should 
always be kept in view. For, difficult as is the task of translat- 
ing out of a foreign language, that of translation into it is still 
more so; and still more essential is it that the translator be 
thoroughly imbued with its spirit. He must himself be in a 
manner naturalized, in order that his literary offspring may en- 
joy the privileges of citizenship. 

The bane of Chinese style is a servile imitation of antiquity. 
This not only confines the writer within a narrow circle of 
threadbare thoughts ; it has the effect of disfiguring modern lit- 
erature by spurious ornaments borrowed from the ancients. 
The authors of the Thirteen Classics are canonized. Infallible in 
letters as in doctrine, every expression which they have employ- 
ed becomes a model, or rather, I should say, a portion of the cur- 
rent vocabulary. But, like the waters of the King and Wei, the 


diverse elements refuse to mingle, giving to the most admired 
composition a heterogeneous aspect which mars its beauty in 
our eyes as much as it enhances it in those of the Chinese. A 
premium is thus placed on pedantry, and fetters are imposed on 
the feet of genius. The peculiar dialect which we sometimes 
hear from the pulpit, made up of fragments of the sacred text 
skilfully incorporated with the language of every-day life, may 
serve as an illustration of this singular compound. 

In spite of this imitation of antiquity, they are, age after age, 
insensibly drifting away from their standard. A law of move- 
ment seems to be impressed on all things, which even the Chi- 
nese are unable to resist. By consequence, each century in their 
long history, or, more properly, each dynasty, has formed a style 
of its own. The authors of the Chau, Han, Tang, and Sung pe- 
riods are broadly discriminated. 

China abounds in literary adventurers of the stamp of Con- 
stantine Simonides, and the prevalent antiquity-worship affords 
them encouragement; but happily she has her critics too, as 
acute as Aristarchus of old. 

The great schools of religious philosophy are also strongly 
differentiated in their style of expression. The Confucian, deal- 
ing with the things of common life, aims at perspicuity. The 
Tauist, occupied with magic and mystery, veils his thoughts in 
symbols and far-fetched metaphors. The Buddhist, to the ob- 
scurity inseparable from the imported metaphysics of India, 
adds an opaque medium by the constant use of Sanscrit phrases 
which are ill understood. Subdivisions of these great schools 
have likewise their peculiarities of style. Of these, however, 
I shall not speak, but hasten to indicate certain species of 
composition, each of which is characterized by a style of its 

In no country are private correspondence, official despatches, 
and didactic and narrative writings distinguished by more 
marked peculiarities. 



In China, the style of epistolary intercourse, instead of ap- 
proaching, as with us, to that of familiar conversation, is singu- 
larly stiff and affected. Whatever the subject, it is ushered in 
by a formal parade of set phrases, and finished off by a conclu- 
sion equally stereotyped and unmeaning. Form dominates ev- 
erything in China. It is seldom that a letter flows freely from 
the heart and pen even of an able writer ; and as for the less ed- 
ucated, though quite capable of expressing their own thoughts 
in their own way, they never think of such a thing as throwing 
off the constraint of prescribed forms. It is amusing to see 
how carefully one who hears of the death of a relative culls from 
the letter-book a form exactly suited to the degree of his afflic- 
tion. If the Chinese wrote love-letters (which they never do), 
they would all employ the same honeyed phrases ; or, like Fal- 
staff in the Merry Wives, address the same epistle to all the 
different objects of their admiration. 

By way of sample, here is a " note of congratulation on the 
birthday of a friend :" 

" The Book of History lauds the five kinds of happiness, and 
the Book of Odes makes nse of the nine similes. Both extol 
the honors of old age. Rejoicing at the anniversary of your ad- 
vent, I utter the prayer of Hwa-f ung ; and, by way of recording 
my tally in the seaside cottage, I lay my tribute at your feet, by 
retaining the whole of which you will shed lustre on him who 
offers it." 

In this short note we have five classic allusions, two of which 
require a word of explanation. The prayer of Hwa-fung was 
for the Emperor Yau, that he might be blessed with a happy 
old age and numerous posterity. The " tally in the seaside cot- 
tage " refers to a legend in which one of the genii, when asked 
his age, replied that he " could not reckon it by years ; but as 
often as the azure sea became a field for the planting of mul- 
berry groves he was accustomed to note the event by depositing 
a tally. Those tallies now filled ten chambers of his dwelling." 


The reply to the foregoing van as follows : 

" My trifling life has passed away in vanity, unmarked by a 
single trait of excellence. On my birthday especially this fills 
me with shame. How dare I, then, accept your congratulatory 
gifts ? I beg to decline them, and, prostrate, pray for indulgence." 

The official correspondence and state-papers of the Chinese 
are, for the most part, dignified, clear, and free from those pedan- 
tic allusions with which they love to adorn their other writings. 
Whoever has read, even in the form of a translation, the memo- 
rials on the opium trade laid before the Emperor Tau-kwang, or 
the papers of Commissioner Lin on the same subject, cannot have 
failed to be struck with their manifest ability. Some of them 
are eloquent in style and masterly in argument. Imperial edicts 
are generally well written ; but those of the Emperor Yung-ching 
are of such conspicuous merit that they are collected in a series 
of volumes and studied as models of composition. 

The didactic style, whether that of commentaries on the clas- 
sic texts or of treatises on science, morals, and practical arts, is 
always formed in accordance with the maxim of Confucius, Tsze 
tah erh ye, "Enough if you are clear." Such writings are as 
lucid as the nature of the subject, the genius of the language, 
and the brain of the author will admit. The commentaries on 
the classics are admirable specimens of textual exposition. 

The narrative style ranges from the gravity of history to the 
description of scenery and humorous anecdote. Its ideal is the 
combination of the graphic with simplicity. Of the historical 
writings of the Chinese, so far as their style is concerned, noth- 
ing more can be said than that they are simple and perspicuous. 
Interesting they are not; for their bondage to the annal and 
journal form has prevented their giving us comprehensive ta- 
bleaux ; while the idea of a philosophy of history has never 
dawned on their minds. In descriptions of scenery the Chinese 
excel. They have an eye for the picturesque in nature; and 
nature throws her varied charms over the pages of their litera- 


tare with a profusion unknown among the pagan nations of the 
West. Chinese writers are particularly fond of relating inci- 
dents that are susceptible of a practical application. Of this 
allow me to furnish one or two illustrations : 

" Confucius was passing the foot of the Tai-shan when he 
heard a woman weeping beside a new-made grave. There was 
something so sad in the tones of her voice that the sage leaned 
his head on his hand and listened. Then sending Tsz'-lu (one 
of his disciples), he said to her, ' Madam, you weep as though 
you were loaded with many sorrows.' She replied, ' What you 
say is true. First, my husband's brother was devoured by a 
tiger, then my husband was killed, and now my son has been 
eaten.' ' But why do you not leave this fatal spot ?' ' Because,' 
said the woman, 'here among the mountains there are no op- 
pressive magistrates.' '' Mark that, my children,' said the sage, 
addressing his disciples; 'oppressive magistrates are dreaded 
more than tigers.' " 

This is from Tan-kung, of the Chau dynasty. Liu-tsung-yuen, 
of the Tang period, has a similar narrative in which a poisonous 
reptile takes the place of the tiger. A poor man was employed 
to capture the spotted snake for medicinal purposes, and had 
his taxes remitted on condition of supplying the Imperial col- 
lege of physicians with two every year. The author expressing 
his sympathy for his perilous occupation, the man replied, " ' My 
grandfather died in this way, my father also, and I, during the 
twelve years in which I have been so engaged, have more than 
once been near dying by the bite of serpents.' As he uttered 
this with a very sorrowful expression of countenance, ' Do you 
wish,' said I, 'that I should speak to the magistrates and have 
you released from this hard service?' His look became more 
sorrowful, and, bursting into tears, he exclaimed, ' If you pity 
me, allow me, I pray you, to pursue my present occupation ; for 
be assured that my lot, hard as it is, is by no means so pitiable 
as that of those who suffer the exactions of tax-gatherers.' " 


I add a specimen, in the same vein, from Liu-ki, a writer of 
the Ming period, who flourished no more than five hundred years 
ago. " I saw," he says, " oranges exposed on a fruit-stand in 
midsummer, and sold at a fabulous price. They looked fresh 
and tempting, and I bought one. On breaking it open, a puff 
of something like smoke filled my mouth and nose. Turning 
to the seller, I demanded, ' Why do you sell such fruit ? It is 
fit for nothing but to offer to the gods or to set before strangers. 
What a shame ! What a disgraceful cheat !' ' Well were it,' 
replied the fruit-seller, ' if my oranges were the only shams.' 
And he went on to show how we have sham soldiers in the field, 
sham statesmen in the cabinet, and shams everywhere. I went 
away silently, musing whether this fruit-seller might not be, after 
all, a philosopher who had taken to selling rotten oranges in or- 
der to have a text from which to preach on the subject of 

The last two pieces, though separated from it by a space of 
from twelve to sixteen hundred years, are evidently modelled 
after the first. I have quoted them to show that Chinese writ- 
ers are not always servile in their imitation, or timid in denounc- 
ing the corruptions of their government. 

Another kind of style is that of the wen-chang, or polished 
essay a brief treatise on any subject, constructed according to 
fixed rules, and limited to six or eight hundred words. In our 
own literature it answers to the short papers such as those of 
the Spectator and Rambler, which were so much in vogue in the 
last century invariably ushered in by a classic motto, and ex- 
pected to be a model of fine writing. 

The production of these is the leading test of literary ability. 
The schoolboy writes wen-chang as soon as he is able to con- 
strue the native classics ; and the gray-haired competitor for the 
doctorate in the examinations at the capital is still found writ- 
ing wen-chang. In all the world there is no kind of literature 
produced in equal quantity excepting, perhaps, sermons. Nor 


is their prodigious quantity their only point of resemblance to 
the productions of the Western pulpit. They always have a text 
from the sacred books, which they analyze in a most artificial 
manner, and uniformly reduce to eight heads. They aim at 
nothing beyond exposition, on the principle that the moderns 
can do nothing more than unfold the germs of ancient wisdom ; 
originality is renounced, and, as already intimated, their chief 
adornment consists in the artful interweaving of sacred and 
modern phraseology. Like the inlaid wares of the Japanese or 
the mosaic pictures of the West, the more numerous and minute 
their component parts, the more are these compositions admired. 
Of no practical utility except as a mental gymnastic, the style of 
these essays exerts an influence through the whole range of lit- 
erature. Indeed, the term which is commonly employed to 
cover the whole field of belles-lettres is no other than wen-chang. 

Here is an opening paragraph of an essay which took the first 
honor in a recent examination for the doctorate : 

Subject Good-faith and Dignity. "When we begin, we 
should look to the end. Good-faith and dignity of carriage 
should therefore be objects of our care. By faith we mean that 
our acts should respond to our promise ; and by dignity that our 
bearing should be such as to repel any approach towards insolent 
familiarity. This is only obtained by cherishing a sense of right, 
cultivating a regard for propriety, and at the same time main- 
taining a sympathy for our fellow-men. In this earthly pilgrim- 
age, what we most desire is to escape the blame of being untrue. 
We choose our words with care, for fear we should be untrue to 
our fellows. We choose our actions with care, for fear we should 
be untrue to ourselves. And we choose our companions with 
care, lest we should prove unfaithful to our friends or they 
should prove unfaithful to us. By so doing we can fulfil our 
obligations, maintain our dignity of character, and yet preserve 
inviolate our social attachments. Within we shall have a heart 
that feels its self-imposed engagements as much as if it were 


bound by the stipulations of a solemn covenant ; while without 
we shall wear an aspect that will command the respect of those 
who approach us." 

"Enough," you will say; "those thoughts are all very com- 
monplace. It is of no use to translate any further." And truly ; 
for a translation can never do justice to the subtle qualities 
which caused this performance to be crowned among seven 
thousand competitors. The delicate sutures which blend its va- 
rious elements into an harmonious whole must, of course, like the 
wavy lines of a Damascus blade, disappear when cast into the 
crucible of the translator. 

From what has been said of the style of schools, periods, and 
different provinces in the empire of letters, it follows that, not- 
withstanding their propensity for imitation, Chinese writers must 
be as strongly individualized as those of other countries. If 
gifted with original genius, they form a style of their own ; if 
not, they produce in new and undesigned combinations the traits 
of earlier authors by whom they have been most deeply im- 
pressed. Confucius professed to be an imitator, but he was 
eminently original: Direct, practical, and comprehensive, his 
thoughts are expressed in language at once concise and rhyth- 
mical resembling as much as anything else those choice lines 
of Shakespeare which by their combined felicity of idea and 
expression have become transformed into popular proverbs. 
Whether, like the Hindoo guru, he threw them into this form 
as the text for his daily discourse, or whether they were reduced 
by his disciples, it is not in all cases easy to determine. But 
certain it is that, stripped of their attractive dress, whatever their 
intrinsic merit, they never could have attained such universal 
currency. The teachings of Confucius owe as much to style as 
those of Mahomet. The extent to which style was studied in 
his time we may infer from the account he gives us of the man- 
ner in which the elegant state-papers of the principality of 
Cheng were produced. They were the work of four men with 


long, strange names. One " drew out a rough draft," a second 
" sifted the arguments," another " added rhetorical embellish- 
ments," and the fourth finished them by " polishing off the pe- 

Lau-tse, the contemporary of Confucius, though somewhat his 
senior, left his instructions to posterity in " five thousand words," 
cast in a semi-poetical mould. Obscure and paradoxical like 
Ileraclitus of Ephesus, surnamed the Dark (a writer with whom 
it would not be difficult to trace other points of analogy besides 
their common partiality for enigma), his dark pages are illu- 
mined by many a flash of far-reaching light. Each of these 
great masters impressed his style on the school which he founded. 

Mencius is Confucius with less dogmatism and more vehe- 
mence ; while the wild fancy of Chwang-tse reproduces the char- 
acteristics of Lau-tse in exaggerated proportions. 

With both, the current of their diction flows like a river, but 
in each case it wears the complexion of its distant source. 

As another example of a contrast in manner, I may adduce 
two historians of the Chau period. Kung-yang-kau and Tso- 
chew-ming both confine themselves to the r6le of expositors, 
taking the Confucian annals as their text ; but the first often 
commences with a minute analysis of the text, while the other 
proceeds at once to a narrative of facts. The former, for in- 
stance, thus expounds the heading of a chapter : 

Text " First year, spring, royal first moon.' 1 ' 1 " Why the 
first year? Because it was the commencement of a new reign. 
Why does he mention spring ? Because the year began at that 
season. Why, in speaking of the month, does he prefix the 
word royal ? To indicate that it was fixed by the Imperial cal- 
endar. W T hy refer to the Imperial calendar ? To show that all 
the states are united under one sovereign," etc. 

From Tso-chew-ming I cite a passage which, whether it do or 
do not exhibit any other peculiarity, will at least show the ab- 
sence of interrogation-marks. 


Text " The Prince of Cheng conquers Toan at Yien" Pre- 
mising that the belligerents were brothers; that their mother 
had abetted the rebellion of Toan the younger; and that the 
Prince, pronouncing against her a sentence of banishment, had 
taken a solemn oath never to see her again until they should 
both be under the ground, the historian continues, " The Prince 
soon repented of his hasty oath. The Governor of Ying-ku 
heard it, and came with a present. The Prince detained him to 
dine. Ying-ku put aside a portion of the meats. The Prince 
inquired the reason. Said Ying-ku, ' They are for my mother, 
who has never tasted such royal dainties.' ' You have a moth- 
er, then,' said the Prince; 'alas! I have none.' He then told 
him of his oath, at the same time informing him of his repent- 

" ' Why need your Majesty be troubled on that account ?" ex- 
claimed Ying-ku. ' If you will only make a subterranean cham- 
ber with two doors, and meet there, who will say that you have 
not kept your oath ?' 

"The Prince took the counsel, and, meeting his mother beneath 
the ground, they became mother and son as before. How per- 
fect the piety of Ying-ku, who devised the plan !" 

The great masters of style are a thousand years later than 
these last; and then we find philosophers, poets, and historians 
in such constellations as to make the dynasties of Tang and 
Sung a Golden Age for Chinese letters. Then flourished such 
writers as Han-yu, surnamed the Prince of Literature ; Li-po, in 
whom the planet Venus was believed to be incarnate ; the three 
Su, father and sons; and a host of others whose light has not 
yet reached the Western shores, and whose names it would be 
tedious to recount. Their names, musical enough in the tones 
of their native land, are harsh to Occidental ears. What a pity 
they have not all been clothed in graceful Latin, like those of 
Confucius and Mencius! These sages, if they owe to their style 
in a great degree their popularity at home, are almost equally 


indebted for their fame abroad to the classical terminations of 
their names. Name is fame in more than one sense, and more 
than one language in Chinese as in Hebrew ; and it is obvious 
that in the Western world no amount of merit would be suffi- 
cient to confer celebrity on a man bearing the name of K l oong- 

I refrain from further extracts. For reasons already given, no 
translation can do justice to the style of a Chinese writer ; and 
a volume, instead of a brief essay, would be required to give an 
approximate idea of the other qualities of what the Chinese 
describe as their elegant literature. 

To their poets we have made no reference, as that would open 
up a distinct field of inquiry. It is on their poetry that they 
especially pique themselves ; but, as I think, with mistaken 
judgment. For while their prose- writers, like those of France, 
are unsurpassed in felicity of style, their poetry, like that of 
France, is stiff and constrained. Like their own" women, their 
poetical muses have cramped feet and no wings. 

For variety in prose composition, the nature of the language 
affords a boundless scope. For, not to speak of local dialects, 
the language of scholars, or the written language, ranges in its 
choice of expressions from the familiar patois up to the most 
archaic forms. In China nothing becomes obsolete; and a 
writer is thus enabled to pitch his composition, at option, on a 
high or low key, and to carry it through consistently. There 
are, for example, three sets of personal pronouns that correspond 
to as many grades of style ; while there are other styles in 
which the personal pronoun is dispensed with, and substantives 
employed instead. 

Founded on pictorial representation, the language is, in many 
of its features, highly poetical, the strange beauties with which 
it charms the fancy at every step suggesting a ramble among 
the gardens of the sea -nymphs. Nor is it a dead language, 
though in its written form no longer generally spoken. It con- 


tains " thoughts that breathe, and words that burn" writers 
whom the student will gladly acknowledge as worthy compeers 
of the most admired authors of the ancient West. I say " an- 
cient," for China is essentially ancient. She is not yet modern- 
ized, and finds fitter parallels in pagan antiquity than in modern 

The time, I trust, is not far distant when her language will 
find a place in all our principal seats of learning, and when her 
classic writers will be known and appreciated. 



IN no other language is the style of private correspondence so 
widely separated from that of official or public documents as in 
the Chinese. The latter, simple and direct in expression, es- 
chews ornament, and aims chiefly at clearness and force; the 
former, artificial to the last degree, bristles with trite allusions 
which are rather pedantic than elegant. 

With us, in this as in so many other things, the reverse is not 
far from the truth. It is the official despatch that is cast in iron 
moulds ; and the familiar letter is left free to take any shape the 
easy play of thought and feeling may impress upon it. Authors 
accordingly sometimes choose to throw their compositions into 
the convenient form of epistles when they wish to invest them 
with the double charm of clearness and vivacity. By employ- 
ing the form of letters, Pascal imparted to polemic discussion 
the grace and humor of the comic drama; while Swift and Ju- 
nius availed themselves of the same weapon in their terrible at- 
tacks on the government. 

Not so the Chinese : wh'ile necessity leads to the discussion 
of grave topics in the form of letters, and the teachings of some 
of their ancient philosophers were communicated "in the way of 
correspondence, among them no modern author ever thinks of 
throwing his ideas into such a shape. Neither does any author 
treat a grave subject under the form of the modern prize essay ; 

* Read before the North China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society on 
the 8th December, 1876. 


and thoughtful men denounce the regulation essay as utterly 
useless ; but they never denounce the conventional style of let- 
ter-writing, though both have a family likeness. The reason is 
that the letter of friendship or business is a social necessity, and 
the literary ornament with which it is tricked out is deemed es- 
sential to save it from vulgarity. 

In friendly correspondence the opening paragraphs are always 
consecrated to the expression of high-flown sentiments, real or 
assumed, and not unfrequently the falsetto pitch of the exordi- 
um is painfully sustained to the very close. Nothing is more 
offensive to our taste, or less calculated to encourage the labor 
of acquisition. If a letter contains any serious business, the for- 
eign reader, if he does not, as in most cases, rely on a native 
teacher for explanation, finds that he can arrive at it by a process 
of elimination, i. e. by leaving out of account all the unintelligi- 
ble rhetoric. But this is not merely unscholarly; it limits the 
use of correspondence, and shuts out the student (he does not 
deserve the name of student if willing to be shut out) from a 
department of literature which more than any other presents us 
with pictures of individual character and social life. 

The student who desires to enter this field will find numerous 
private collections of more or less celebrity soliciting his atten- 
tion. If any of them were from the pens of gifted women ; 
and if the canons of Chinese taste (for the fault is not in the 
language) permitted them, like their sisters of the West, to 
write as they talk, he might, even in this department, verify the 
quaint old maxim, " The sweetness of the lips increaseth knowl- 
edge." But, alas ! there is no Sevigne who, by her brilliant 
gossip, can shed the dews of immortal youth over the ephemeral 
intrigues of a court, and by her wit give a value to things that 
are worthless, as amber does to the insects which it embalms ; 
there is no Wortley who chats with equal charm of literature 
and love ; no Lady Duff Gordon, who, by her genius and enter- 
prise, puts us in love with boat-life and Bedouins. 


The paths of epistolary literature, where the choicest flowers 
are dropped from female hands, are in China all untrodden by 
female feet; and a reason gravely given for withholding from 
women the key of knowledge is that men are afraid they will 
learn to write letters. It is not nature, but man, that is ungener- 
ous to the daughters of the East. 

" Knowledge to their eyes her ample page, 
Rich with the spoils of time, did ne'er unroll ; 
Chill jealousy repressed their noble rage, 
And froze the genial current of the soul." 

Nor, it must be confessed, is there any such indemnity in store 
for our student as the epistles of a moralizing Seneca; or the 
correspondence of a malignant and intriguing Walpole, which 
lifts the veil from the mysteries of contemporary politics, and 
from the writer's own bosom, so that Macaulay ingeniously 
compares the flavor of the letters of the great minister to that 
of pates defoie gras, because derived from a disease of the liver 
in the animal that produced them. But as some of our most 
eminent poets, such as Dryden, Gray, and Cowper, have left be- 
hind them letters that are preserved as models of elegance in 
which fancy and feeling are no less happily blended than in their 
poetical works, so we find that in China the list of distinguished 
letter -writers is headed by the names of poets, showing that 
they enjoyed the favor of the musa pedestris as well as of her 
winged sisters. 

The earliest collection of letters, or at least the most famous 
of those that are accepted as models of epistolary style, came 
from the pens of two celebrated poets of the Sung dynasty, Su- 
tung-p'o, fjsfc J| ^, and Hwang-t'ing-kien, Jjl /j ^. Under 
the joint name of Su-Hwang-ch'i-tuh, ffi j /^ J, though not 
properly a Briefwechsel, or correspondence between the two au- 
thors, it has ever since the battle of Hastings given law to this 
species of composition. 

The stream of time, like that which floated the borrowed axe 


of the prophet, usually carries down the weightier matters, and 
deposits the less important as sediment ; yet in this instance 
we have reason to regret that, like natural rivers, it has only 
brought down to us the lighter material on its surface. Both 
writers held high offices, and one of them was especially hon- 
ored at the Imperial Court ; but their letters have little to do 
with State policy ; and the selection has obviously been made on 
the principle that if one of their merits is in the elegance of 
their form, another ought to be in the absence of facts. Still, 
even these shining husks, if carefully sifted, will be found to 
yield some grains of valuable information. 

A book of letters of more modern date, and scarcely inferior 
in reputation, is the Ctii-tuh of Siao-ts'ang, jj> ^ |]| /jf^ /-^ ftfl , 
or of Sui-yuen, |g HJ ft |}j|, as it is variously styled. The au- 
thor, Yuen-mei, ^ $, a native of Che-kiang, won a seat in the 
Imperial Academy in the reign of Kien-lung ; and declining of- 
fice, passed his life at Nanking, chiefly engaged in scholastic pur- 
suits, boasting that for thirty years he never appeared at court. 

Known mainly as a professor of belles-lettres, with pupils dis- 
persed over several provinces, instead of collected into one lect- 
ure-room, and communicating by post instead of viva voce, this, 
worthy man has not merely left models of composition, but set 
an example, both as scholar and instructor, which is much ad- 
mired though little followed. 

A poet of refined taste, and not without talent, it is interesting 
to know that he gave instruction in the art of poetry to numer- 
ous ladies of high family and culture, making, from time to time, 
the circuit of the cities where they resided a fact the rarity of' 
which rather supports than invalidates the view above given of 
the deficiencies of female education. 

There are numerous works passing under the general name of 
Ch'i-tuh, which were prepared expressly for form-books, and will 
ropay perusal for that purpose. Of these I may mention the 
Yen-chi-mutan,j$ jfljf tifa fy,Hai-shang-hung-ni,jfe j 


and Liu-tsing-tsi, ^ ~^ 4t? ; but they have not the merit of a 

It is, however, with a view to drawing attention to a more re- 
cent collection that this article is written. 

The Tsze-yuen Ctii-tuh,ffi ^ j^ Hf|, published at Peking a 
few years ago in four thin volumes, consists of a selection from 
the letters of Liu-kia-chu, 1J *jfc fjf . 

This is a name which, being unknown, carries no weight ; and 
our author, like Hawthorne in one of his earlier works, might 

' O 

speak of himself as enjoying the distinction of being one of the 
obscurest men of letters in all China. A native of Hunan, he 
passed many years in the Yamen of the Governor of Canton ; a 
representative of that nameless but influential class who transact the 
business while their superiors enjoy the honors of official station. 

During this period he wrote, he tells us, heaps of papers higher 
than his head, among which one might play hide-and-seek in 
more senses than one. Most of them were, of course, sent forth 
in the name of others, and the writer facetiously compares him- 
self to a milliner who prepares the clothing for a bride, or a go- 
between who arranges for her nuptials. Of these he gives us 
none, unless, indexed, by surreptitiously changing their address 
and adapting them to his own. use. 

The most of his papers bear unmistakable marks of having 
been culled from his private portfolio ; affording such incidental 
glimpses of life and manners that one is compelled to accept 
them as a genuine record a portion of the writer's autobiogra- 
phy. This gives the work an element of interest of no mean 
order, and a value of its own, as a mirror held up to the face of 
Chinese life by the hand of a native. So frank, indeed, are its 
disclosures, so little care is taken to draw a veil over things that 
are deemed discreditable, that one might almost regard the work 
as belonging to the category of " confessions " originated by 
St. Augustine, and rendered popular by Rousseau. 

As to the literary merits of the performance, it is sufficient to 


cite the names of the two sponsors under whose patronage the 
author comes before the public Kwo Sung-tao, Minister to 
England, and Wang K'ai-tai, the late enlightened governor of 
the Province of Fohkien each of them having filled the post 
of Governor of Canton, and employed Liu-kia-chu as a confiden- 
tial secretary. 

Other great names are invoked in a long list of laudatory 
notices ; and some that we meet with incidentally in the course 
of the correspondence, such as Tseng Kwo-fan, Tsiang Ih-li, Li 
Hung-chang, and Liu Ch'ang-yiu, the present viceroy of Yunnan 
and Kweichau, impart to it an air of historical truth that is 
much in its favor. 

Without pausing longer to discourse about the book, let us 
open its pages and see what we shall find there. 

To begin, we shall find a meteoric shower of allusions. This 
is the most prominent characteristic of this species of writing ; 
and its primary object is to hide the nakedness of commonplace. 
Employed in excess or handled clumsily, it aggravates the evil 
by exposing the poverty of the writer, or substitutes the graver 
faults of pedantry and cant ; used with skill and taste, it throws 
over the page a glitter of iridescent hues, or, it may be, con- 
tributes largely to the significance and force of language. 

These allusions are of various kinds. Some suggest whole 
chapters of history ; others bring up the words or actions of 
real or mythical personages ; while others still, by a single word 
or phrase, cast a beam of light on some poetical tableau, which 
brings its entire effect to bear on the subject in hand. For in- 
stance, when Dry den says of Thais that, 

" Like another Helen, she fired another Troy," 

what a crowd of teeming associations he condenses into the 
space of a single line ! How much is expressed by such brief 
phrases as " a Barmecide feast," " a Bellerophon letter," " a 
Judas kiss !" 



The Chinese language I do not say literature abounds in 
such ; and no one can be said to understand the language who 
is not in some decree familiar with them. Then there are curt 


allusions of a purely literary kind catch-words which suggest 
any one of the three hundred classic odes, or refer to thousands 
of well-known passages in later literature. To these we may add 
a vocabulary of metaphorical words and phrases, the use of which 
is de rigeur in a certain style which makes it a point of taste not 
to call things by their right names. Thus the poet or the elegant 
letter-writer never speaks of copper cash, but calls them " green 
beetles ;" a sheet of paper he calls " a flowery scroll ;" an epistle 
is " a wild-goose." Husband and wife are Cliang-sue, bass and 
treble ; K'ang-li, strength and beauty ; Yuen-yang, duck and 
drake ; and a hundred other pretty things, at the poet's option. 
A man is a prince and his wife a princess ; his house a palace and 
his children a phoenix brood. To repay the kindness of parents is 
to emulate the stork ; to return a borrowed article is to restore the 
gem ; and a man of genius employed in a work of drudgery as 
Charles Lamb in the India Office is a race-horse in a salt-wagon. 

These are but a few specimens of a sort of dialect that has its 
own dictionaries without number or limit ; and of which every 
reader of Chinese is under the necessity of knowing something, 
if he does not master it. Perhaps the best key to it for any 
student, native or foreign, is a collection of wen-chang, or of well- 
written letters, such as those of our obscure friend Liu-kia-chu. 

In dictionaries and cyclopaedias, or in such a useful hand-book 
as Mr. Mayer's Chinese Reader's Manual, he will find gems ar- 
ranged as in a mineralogical cabinet ; but in these compositions 
he meets them in their proper setting. The object of such works 
is to aid, not to supersede, the reading of difficult authors as a 
certain learned Dutchman proposed to supersede Homer by pre- 
senting the Homeric archaeology in a tabulated form. 

We now proceed to the substratum of facts underlying the 
gold and tinsel of which we have been speaking. Of little im- 


portance in themselves, and not by any means thick-sown through 
these pages, they are still not devoid of interest as illustrations 
of character, personal and national. 

It was from the letters of Cicero that Mr. Middleton drew the 
principal materials for his admirable life of the great Roman 
statesman. But even the letters of Chu-fu-tsze or Su-tung-p'o 
would furnish scanty materials for a history of their lives ; and 
meagre, indeed, are the outlines of biography which we are able 
to extract from the sentimental effusions of Liu-kia-chu. 

Our author first drew his breath, and with it what poetic in- 
spiration he possessed, amidst the mountain scenery of Southern 
Hunan, about the middle of the reign of Kia-king (circa 1810). 
Born in a rustic village not far from the city of Sin-hwa, $$[ -ft, , 
he came of a family distinguished for scholarship a fact of which 
he never ceases to remind the reader ; and there can be no doubt 
that he inherited talent, though his patrimony included little else. 

Boasting somewhat of his early precocity, he hints at youthful 
dissipations as having proved fatal to his career as a scholar, and 
planted the seeds of unending regrets. He failed probably from 
a defective chirography, as many a worthier man has done to 
win the first or lowest degree in the civil-service examinations ; 
and about the age of thirty he removed with, his family to Can- 
ton, forgetting, it seems, to liquidate certain debts of honor. 

Concerned in the conduct of a charity-school, Liu, thinking 
that charity ought to begin at home, " borrowed " a portion of 
the funds to meet his own necessities. Arrived at Canton, he 
learned with much regret that the slight liberty he had taken 
with its capital was likely to occasion the dissolution of the 
school. Against this he protests with much eloquence ; but has 
nothing more substantial to encourage the good work than 
" promises to pay." In this connection his reference to himself 
as a good example of the benefits of education is, to say the 
least, a little naive. 

After this, we are not surprised to find many epistles filled 


with complaints of poverty. He has work enough, but scant 
remuneration. Great men admire his genius, and load him with 
compliments ; but, like virtue, which he does not much resemble 
in any other respect, laudatur et alget. 

From one friend he begs the loan of a "few hundred pieces 
of gold," and from another he borrows a suit of decent apparel. 
Good models these letters for one who has much to do in the 
line of begging or borrowing ! 

All this time Liu's family is increasing at a rather alarming 
rate ; not that he has any children born, but from time to time 
he takes a new beauty into his harem in the hope that children 
will follow. One is presented to him by a friend ; another, not 
unnaturally, runs away, or, as he euphemistically terms it, " car- 
ries her guitar to another door." 

A correspondent of comparatively severe morals expostulates 
with Liu on this seeming abandonment to a life of sensuality ; 
and the latter replies by drawing an affecting picture of an aged 
father who cannot die in peace without the joy of embracing a 
grandson ! 

At length his hopes are awakened only to meet with disap- 
pointment one of his wives presenting him with a daughter. 
The little creature appears not to be altogether unwelcome, and, 
in fact, makes for herself a warm place in her father's heart ; 
though he frequently alludes to her in terms borrowed from one 
of the odes of which the following couplet gives the leading idea : 

" A girl is born ; in coarse cloth wound, 
With a tile for a toy, let her lie on the ground," etc. 

The spell broken, another of his ladies crowns his desires by 
giving him a son, whose advent is duly hailed by a flourish of 
trumpets, and further quotations from the Book of Odes : 

" A son is born ; on an ivory bed, 
Wrap him in raiment of purple and red ; 
Gold and jewels for playthings bring 
To the noble boy who shall serve the king." 


In a few months this child of many hopes sickens ancl dies. 
The disconsolate father mourns deeply, and fills many sheets 
with melodious tristia. 

About this time the doors of official preferment, before which 
he had been so long waiting (having failed to find the key in 
his earlier youth), began slowly to open before him. Appointed 
magistrate of a sub-district in the country, called Loh-kang, he 
contrived to send some one to act in his stead (perhaps sub- 
letting the profits of the position), while he remained at the 
capital in the midst of the literary society which he loved so 

Another time, appointed to Kowloon on the main opposite to 
Hongkong, Liu finds excuses for not repairing to his post ; and 
the governor, offended by his tardiness, cancels the appointment. 
After due penance, he is restored to favor and offered another 
post, such as Caesar himself would have preferred to being the 
second man at Rome. Taught by experience, he lost no time in 
installing himself in his new yamen. Its roof leaks, its walls are 
crumbling, and all its apartments filled with rubbish ; but, to 
compensate for all this, it contains a throne, which, if he had 
read Milton, he might have compared to that of the "anarch 
old " who ruled the realms of chaos. 

Here he finds a new order of talents called into requisition : 
he has to deal with facts instead of words, and is evidently 
proud of the success with which he performs the functions of a 
judge favoring us with one of his judgments as a model of its 
kind. It betrays, however, the fact that his right hand has not 
forgotten its cunning; that he continues to be.a rhetorician in 
spite of himself, and is more at home in reading a lecture than 
in pronouncing a sentence. 

Unique among the rose-water productions of his epistolary 
pen, his report of this lawsuit reminds us that Liu has also 
given us a few specimens of another species of composition. 

In the course of his career he is sometimes assistant examiner, 


and sometimes appears in the character of a competitor; not, 
indeed, in the ordinary examinations, but in those special trials 
which expectant officers are required to pass at the provincial 
capital. On one of these occasions Liu's essays were endorsed 
by the high authorities in terms which placed them on a level 
with the best productions of the classic ages. 

These eulogies he not only repeats in many of his letters, but 
favors his friends with copies of the fortunate papers, that they 
may judge for themselves whether the praise is merited ; pleas- 
ing himself with the reflection that but for the injustice of the 
lower courts he might long since have worn the highest honors 
of the literary arena. 

Liu's literary ability is also duly recognized by a host of junior 
aspirants, who solicit copies of his MSS., send presents on his 
fete-days, and institute theatricals in his honor. 

His moral character is more doubtful. A polygamist on prin- 
ciple, he disclaims the virtues of an ascetic philosopher in order 
to emulate the libertinism of certain dissolute poets. Had he, 
indeed, done nothing worse than fill his own cage with bright- 
winged songsters, he would have been walking too closely in the 
footsteps of saints and sages to attract attention. To vindicate 
for himself the reputation of being a free spirit one that spurns 
what he denominates the "minor morals" he mingles occasion- 
ally with the " soiled doves." 

For this, his best apology is found in the fact that the silly 
occupants of his own dove-cot are incapable of appreciating his 
genius ; while some of these unappropriated, like the heta3ra3 of 
Greece, had their charms enhanced by the advantages of educa- 
tion. He gives us a letter which he wrote to one of this class, 
with hypocritical morality recommending her to take refuge in 
a house of religion. 

In an epistle to another friend, he gives us reason to suspect 
that even the vestals of Buddha were not sacred in his eyes ; and 
that with him sacrilege was necessary to give the highest flavor 


to license. Freely unfolding his inner life, and trenching often 
on forbidden ground, it is something in his favor that he is al- 
ways elegant and never indecent. 

After this account of his morals, it would be useless to inquire 
for his religion. He says, indeed, very little on the subject. He 
alludes to a " Creator " more than once, but in language of studied 
levity, showing that to him the author of nature is not a "liv- 
ing God." 

As to outward observances, he conforms to popular usage ; he 
believes in fate, and, impatient to know its decrees, applies to a 
professional fortune-teller ; in all these points only too true a 
type of the average literati of his country. 

Our hasty sketch may serve to indicate the range and va- 
riety of his correspondence, which, with all its finish, resem- 
bles a Chinese garden, where artis est NATURAM celare by 
twisting flower and plant into the grotesque shape of bird and 

The boundary-line between friendly and official correspond- 
ence is not easy to trace. It is to the former that we confine 
ourselves in the present communication ; but it will not be amiss 
to remark that much of the best writing in the Chinese language 
may be found on intermediate ground between formal business 
documents and friendly letters. 

In this class of compositions vaguely described as official 
letters, the grace of the polished epistle is often added to the 
directness and force of the despatch style a happy combination, 
of which some of the best specimens may be seen in the pub- 
lished correspondence of Hu-lin-yeh, canonized under the title of 
Hu-wen-cheng-kung ; and in that of Ch'en Wen Chung-kung, 
who, having won three times in succession the first literary honor 
of his province and of the Empire, received from that circum- 
stance the sobriquet of Ch'en San Yuen, ^ H JC 



THE student of Chinese inquires in vain for any collection of 
native fables ; and he feels their absence as a personal inconven- 
ience when he recalls his obligations to ^Esop and Phsedrns, 
Lessing and La Fontaine, for alleviating the toil of his earlier 
studies in the classic languages of ancient and modern Europe. 
This deficiency is the more disappointing, as the constant occur- 
rence of the word pifang in our colloquial exercises leads us to 
expect to find the fields of literature thick-sown with every va- 
riety of similitude. Parables and allegories are, indeed, not want- 
ing, but their congener, the fable, seems never to have existed, 
or in some mysterious way to have become well-nigh extinct. 

Nor is this last supposition a mere idle fancy. We turn up 
from time to time what seem to be fossil fragments enough to 
give it, to say the least, as good a foundation as some scientific 
theories have to rest on. For what are those numerous proverbial 
expressions drawn from the habits of animals but the ghosts, or 
rather the skeletons, of vanished fables. But whether such orig- 
inals ever existed, certain it is that nothing is more easy or natu- 
ral than to expand these phrases into the full dimensions of the 
proper apologue. 

Take, for instance, " the sheep in a tiger's skin," " when the 
hare dies the fox weeps," " he who nurses a tiger's cub will rue 
his kindness," etc. Do not these seem to point back to ancient 
fables as their source ; just as we know " the fox and the grapes," 

* Written for the Celestial Empire in 1871. 


" the ass in a lion's skin," and other proverbial expressions cur- 
rent among us were derived from fables ? 

But how did such originals, supposing them to have existed, 
come to be lost ? We reply, they were either never reduced to 
writing, or not written in a style adapted to the taste of the 
country. For ages past the Chinese have affected an extreme 
sententionsness in the style of their literary composition. This 
would naturally lead them to extract the living spirit and to 
reject the cumbrous form of such fables as might spring up in 
the humbler walks of their folk-lore. Thus they may have had 
their unknown Pilpays and their mute, inglorious ^Esops. 

At all events, the defect of which we are speaking was not 
occasioned, as some would have us infer, by a want of imagina- 
tion. For Chinese literature, while it contains nothing that rises 


to the dignity of the epic muse, yet teems with the productions 
of a fertile fancy metamorphoses as numerous (if not as ele- 
gant) as those of Ovid; fairy tales more monstrous than Grimm's; 
and narratives of adventure (generally accepted as sober history) 
as strange as those of Sindbad or Gulliver. It is, we repeat, a 
question of taste rather than talent ; and this, we think, is borne 
out by the reception which the Chinese gave to Mr. Thorn's ex- 
cellent translation of ^Esop, a work which, instead of finding its 
way into every household, is rarely to be met with even in the 
stalls of a bookseller. The mandarins suspected that wolves and 
bears were masks for dangerous doctrines and biting satire ; 
while neither prince nor peasant has cared enough about the 
production to keep it alive. 

As to talent, while we will not assert that the Chinese could 
have excelled in this department of literature, there is proof, we 
think, that they are not wholly destitute of a capacity for it 
This will be found in the following fables, derived from various 
sources, which we give by way of specimen, hoping that our 
readers will add to the number any that happen to come under 
their notice : 



1. The King of Ch'oo inquiring with some surprise why the 
people of the Xorth were so frightened at the approach of Chou- 
si-hii, one of his ministers replied as follows : " A tiger who hap- 
pened to be preceded by a fox was greatly astonished to see all 
the animals running away from the fox, little suspecting that 
their terror was inspired by himself. It is not Chou, but your 
Majesty, of whom the people of the North are in dread." 

2. " I may go out and play without any danger now," said a 
little mouse to its mother. " The old cat has become religious ; 
I see her with her eyes shut, engaged in praying to Buddha." 

Grimalkin's devotions, however, did not prevent her seizing 
the silly little creature as soon as it ventured near. 

3. A tiger who had never seen an ass was terrified at the 
sound of bis voice, and was about to run away, when the latter 
turned his heels and prepared to kick. 

" If that is your mode of attack," said the tiger, " I know how 
to deal with you." 

4. A tiger having clapped his paw on an unlucky monkey, the 
latter begged to be released on the score of his insignificance, 
and promised to show the tiger where he might find a more val- 
uable prey. The tiger complied, and the monkey conducted him 
to a hill-side where an ass was feeding an animal which the 
tiger, till then, had never seen. 

" My good brother," said the ass to the monkey, " hitherto 
you have always brought me two tigers, how is it that you have 
only brought me one to-day ?" 

Hearing these words, the tiger fled for his life. Thus a ready 
wit may often ward off great dangers. 

5. A tiger, finding a cat very prolific in devices for catching 
game, placed himself under her instruction. At length he was 
told there was nothing more to be learned. " Have you, then, 
taught me all your tricks?" he inquired. "Yes," replied the 
cat. " Then," said the tiger, " you are of no further use, and so 
I shall eat you." The cat, however, sprang lightly into the 


branches of a tree, and smiled at his disappointment. She had 
not taught him all her tricks. 

The Chinese apply this to their foreign instructors iu the art 
of war, and evidently suspect that some master secret is always 
held in reserve. 



As link after link is added to that chain of communication 
which brings China nearer to us than Europe was before the 
rise of steam navigation, it is interesting to know that a mental 
awakening is taking place among the people of China by which 
the Chinese mind will be brought proportionally nearer to our 

The announcement of this fact will be received with distrust 
by some who are sceptical as to the doctrine of human progress. 
It will be questioned by others who deride as visionary the ef- 
forts of Christian enterprise. Nor will it be readily admitted by 
that large class who are wont to regard the Chinese mind as 
hopelessly incrusted with the prejudices of antiquity. 

Never have a great people been more misunderstood. They 
are denounced as stolid, because we are not in possession of a 
medium sufficiently transparent to convey our ideas to them or 
transmit theirs to us ; and stigmatized as barbarians, because we 
want the breadth to comprehend a civilization different from 
our own. They are represented as servile imitators, though they 
have borrowed less than any other people ; as destitute of the 
inventive faculty, though the world is indebted to them for a 
long catalogue of the most useful discoveries ; and as clinging 

* This paper was originally delivered as an address before the American 
Oriental Society, October, 1868; and subsequently published in the New- 
Englander quarterly magazine, January, 1869. It is reproduced without 
alteration, because, in the writer's opinion, the history of the past twelve 
years serves to confirm and verify the views here given. 


with unquestioning tenacity to a heritage of traditions, though 
they have passed through many and profound changes in the 
course of their history. 

They have not been stationary, as generally supposed, through 
the long past of their national life. The national mind has ad- 
vanced from age to age with a stately march ; not, indeed, al- 
ways in a direct course, but at each of its great epochs record- 
ing, as we think, a decided gain ; like the dawn of an arctic 
morning, in which the first blush of the eastern sky disappears 
for many hours, only to be succeeded by a brighter glow, grow- 
ing brighter yet after each interval of darkness as the time of 
sunrise approaches. 

The existence in such a country of such a thing as a national 
mind is itself an evidence of a susceptibility to change, and at 
the same time a guarantee for the comparative stability of its 
institutions. It proves that China is not an immense congeries 
of polyps, each encased in his narrow cell, a workshop and a 
tomb, and all toiling on without the stimulus of common sym- 
pathy or mental reaction. It proves that China is not, like Af- 
rica and aboriginal America, or even like British India, an as- 
semblage of tribes with little or no community of feeling. It is 
a unit, and through all its members there sweeps the mighty 
tide of a common life. 

In the progress of its enormous growth, it has absorbed many 
a heterogeneous element, which has always been transformed 
into its own substance by an assimilative power that attests the 
marvellous energy of the Chinese civilization. It has, too, under- 
gone many modifications, in consequence of influences operating 
ab extra as well as from within ; and though the process of 
transmission has often been slow, those influences have always 
extended to the whole body. Within the bounds of China 
proper there is no such thing as the waves of Buddhism or 
Taoism being arrested at the confines of a particular province ; 
nor is there any district in which the pulsations from the great 


heart of the empire do not, by virtue of a common language and 
common feeling, meet with a prompt response. 

Yet the existence of this oneness and sympathy this nation- 
ality of mind, which brings modifications on a vast scale within 
the range of possibility, necessarily interposes an obstacle in the 
way of their speedy consummation. Planted on the deep 
foundations of antiquity, extending over so wide an area, antl 
proudly conscious of its own greatness, its very inertia is opposed 
to change. In China, accordingly, great revolutions, whether 
political, religious, or intellectual, have always been slow of ac- 
complishment. Compared with the facility with which these 
are brought about in some Occidental countries, they resemble 
the slow revolution of those huge planets on the outskirts of the 
solar system, which require more than the period of a human 
life to make the circuit of the sun, while the little planet Mer- 
cury wheels round the centre once in a few months. 

The great dynastic changes, involving as they do a period of 
disintegration and another of reconstruction, have usually occu- 
pied from one to three generations ; while the growth of those 
grand revolutions which resulted in the ascendency of a religion 
or a philosophy must be reckoned by centuries. 

A brief review of some of the more remarkable changes that 
have occurred in the progress of Chinese civilization will enable 
us better to understand the nature of the intellectual movement 
now going on. 

To begin with the development of political ideas. Instead of 
being wedded to a uniform system of despotic government, the 
Chinese have lived under as many forms of government as an- 
cient Rome or modern France. While the Romans passed under 
their kings, consuls, and emperors, the Chinese had their tees, 
their wangs, and their kwangtees. And as France has passed 
through the various phases of a feudal and centralized monarchy, 
a republic, and a military despotism, so China exhibits an equal 
variety in the forms of her civil government. 


When the hand of history first lifts the curtain, two thousand 
years before the Christian era, it discloses to us an elective mon- 
archy, in which the voice of the people was admitted to express 
the will of Heaven. Thus Yaou, the model monarch of antiquity, 
was raised to the throne by the voice of the nobles, in lieu of 
his elder brother, who was set aside on account of his disorderly 
life. Yaou in turn set aside his own son, and called on the 
nobles to name a successor, when Shun was chosen. Again, 
Shun, passing by an unworthy son, transmitted the Imperial 
yellow to an able minister, the great Yu. 

Yu, though a good sovereign, departed from these illustrious 
precedents, and incurred the censure of "converting the Empire 
into a family estate." The hereditary principle became fixed. 
Branches of the Imperial family were assigned portions of the 
Empire, and, their descendants succeeding to their principalities, 
the feudal system was confirmed. 

This, in China, is the classical form of government ; Confu- 
cius himself compares the majesty of the sovereign to the polar 
star, which keeps its steadfast place while all the constellations 
revolve around it. It prevailed under the dynasty of Chow, when 
the Classics were produced ; and a large part of the classic writ- 
ings is occupied with questions relating to the balance of power 
among the feudal lords and the regulation of their relations to 
the Emperor. Transplanted to Japan, it exists till the present 
day, where a war among the nobles is now exciting the attention 
of the public.* But in China it was overthrown completely two 
thousand years ago by one of the most sweeping revolutions on 
the records of history. 

* This conflict resulted in the overthrow of the usurpation of the Shogira, 
and the restoration of the Mikado to all his ancient rights and to more than 
his ancient power ; the great barons by common consent surrendering their 
territorial sovereignty, and converting their country into a centralized em- 
pire, instead of a congeries of vassal states. 


Lucheng, * an ambitious noble, sweeping all rival princes 
from the chess-board, dethroned the last degenerate scions of the 
house of Chow, and proclaimed himself under the title of the 
First Whangtee. Finding that the literary class were wedded to 
feudal institutions, he carried on a relentless persecution against 
the disciples of Confucius ; and, fearing that the traces of them 
contained in the Confucian books might lead the people to re- 
- store the obliterated principalities, he proceeded to destroy, as 
far as possible, every vestige of classic literature. His object 
was to cut loose from the leading-strings of antiquity, and to 
inaugurate a totally new system in the politics of the Empire. 
He further signalized his reign by the erection of that huge 
barrier on the north which to this day continues to be a won- 
der of the world. It is only just to add that the system of cen- 
tralized power which he introduced was as firmly established as 
the Great Wall itself. The very title of Whangtee, first assumed 
by Lucheng, continues to be that of the emperors of China at 
the present day. 

Under the dynasty of Han, about the commencement of the 
Christian era, a still more important modification was introduced 
into the constitution of the Empire viz., a democratic element, 
in virtue of which appointments to office were not left to the 
caprice of the sovereign and his favorites. This consisted in 
testing the capacity of candidates by a literary examination ; and 
it operated so well that it was not only adopted, but greatly im- 
proved, by succeeding dynasties, and continues in force at the 
present day. Americans would as soon surrender their ballot-box 
as the Chinese that noble system of literary competition which 
makes public office the reward of scholarship, and gives every 
man an opportunity of elevating himself by his own exertions. 

Nor are the Chinese less familiar with the idea of change in 

* This name implies an opprobrious and, no doubt, fictitious account of 
the great man's parentage. I employ it notwithstanding, because it is that 
which is most frequently used by native historians. 


the region of religious thought, three systems of religion having 
appeared on the arena of the Empire and struggled for ascen- 
dency since the sixth century before the Christian era. Confu- 
cianism was persecuted under the dynasty of Ts'in ; and Taoism 
and Buddhism, alternately persecuting and persecuted, kept up 
the conflict for ages, each in turn seating its own disciples on 
the throne of the Empire. The last of these is of foreign ori- 
gin ; and its universal prevalence does much to reconcile the 
people to the introduction of religious ideas from abroad ; while 
it stands forth as a visible proof of the possibility of converting 
the Chinese to a foreign creed. A leading statesman* of China 
has recently made use of this as an argument that the Emperor 
should not object to the propagation of Christianity. " From the 
time of Ts'in and Han," he says, " the doctrines of Confucius 
began to be obscured, and the religion of Buddha spread. Now 
Buddhism originated in India, but many of the Hindoos have re- 
nounced Buddhism and embraced Mahometanism. The Roman 
Catholic faith originated in the West, but some nations of the 
West have adopted Protestantism, and set themselves in opposi- 
tion to the faith of Rome. Whence we see that other religions 
rise and fall from age to age, but the doctrine of Confucius sur- 
vives unimpaired throughout all ages." The writer is careful 
to disavow any sympathy for Christianity, and he by no means 
recommends its adoption ; but he wishes to assure his Majesty 
that there is no serious evil to be apprehended even if Christian- 
ity should succeed in supplanting Buddhism, as long as the peo- 
ple adhere to the cardinal doctrines of their ancient sage. It is 
a great thing for the leading minds to acknowledge the possi- 
bility of a change even in this hypothetical form. 

Aside from these religious revolutions, and altogether dis- 
tinct from them, are several periods of intellectual awakening 
that constitute marked epochs in the history of literature. 

* Tseng Kuo-fan, Viceroy of Nanking. 


The first of these was occasioned by the publication of the Con- 
fucian Classics. Another occurred in the time of Mencius, 
when the ethical basis of the school underwent a searching re- 
vision, the great question of the original goodness or depravity 
of human nature being discussed with acuteness and power. A 
third and more powerful awakening took place when the classic 
books which Liicheng had burned rose, phoenix-like, from their 
ashes, or, to speak more correctly, issued, Minerva-like, from the 
retentive brain of those venerable scholars who had committed 
them to memory in their early boyhood. 

This was the age of criticism, the very circumstances which 
roused the national mind to activity directing its efforts to the 
settlement of the text of their ancient records. But it did not 
stop here. Slips of bamboo and tablets of wood, the clumsy 
materials of ancient books, gave place to linen, silk, and paper. 
The convenience and elegance of the material contributed to 
multiply books and stimulate literary labor. 

The great work which laid the foundation of all the existing 
histories of the Empire was produced in this age ; as also a dic- 
tionary, the pioneer of Chinese lexicography, since followed by 
more voluminous works, but so complete and lucid that it is 
still reckoned among standard authorities. 

But the grandest of all the revivals of learning was, as might 
be expected, that which ensued on the discovery of the art of 
printing. In the period above referred to, about A.D. 177, the 
revised text of the sacred books was engraved on tablets of 
stone, by Imperial order, as a precaution to secure it against 
the danger of another conflagration. Impressions must have 
been taken from these, and the art of printing thus practised 
to a limited extent at that early date ; but it was not till the 
eighth century that it came into general use for the manufact- 
ure of books. At that time the number of old works de- 
scribed in the official record of the Imperial Library was 53,- 
915, to which were added 28,468 that were characterized as 


recent. But it was not so much this vastly augmented rate of 
production that marked the epoch as the improved character of 
its original literature. This was eminently the age of poetry, 
when Letaipe and Tufu, and a whole constellation of lesser lights, 
rose above the horizon. The poems of Tang are still recognized 
as forming the text-book of standard poetry. 

This period was succeeded by another in the reign of the 
Sung dynasty (960-1279), when the mind of China exhibited 
itself in a new development. It became seized with a mania for 
philosophical speculation, and grappled with the deepest ques- 
tions of ontology. Chowtsze, Chengtsze, and, above all, the fa- 
mous Chuhe, distinguished themselves by the penetrating sub- 
tlety and the daring freedom of their inquiries. Professing to 
elucidate the ancient philosophy,' they in reality founded a new 
one a school of pantheistic idealism, which has continued dom- 
inant to the present hour. 

The last two dynasties have not been unfruitful in the products 
of the intellect ; indeed, there seems to be no end or abatement 
to the teeming fertility of the Chinese mind. Less daringly 
original than in the preceding period, it has yet, under each of 
these dynasties, appeared in a new style the writers of the 
Ming being distinguished for masculine energy of expression, 
and those of the Ts'ing for graceful elegance. Each period 
was introduced by a gigantic work that of the Mings by the 
codification of the laws of the Empire, the Pandects of Yunglo ; 
and that of the Ts'ings by the compilation of Kanghe's Impe- 
rial Dictionary, the " Webster unabridged " of the Chinese lan- 
guage. The writers of the Ts'ing (the present) dynasty are dis- 
playing a little independence, if not originality, in revolting 
against the authority of Chuhe as an expositor of their canon- 
ical Scriptures a reaction against the pantheism, or rather athe- 
ism, of the Sung philosophers. Whether this tendency is due in 
any degree to the influence of Mahometans and Christians, it 
is certain that from both sources, especially the latter, the Chi- 


nese have received powerful impulses in the way of mathematics 
and astronomy. 

Enough has been said to show that the Chinese have not 
maintained through all the ages that character of cast-iron uni- 
formity so generally ascribed to them. Worshippers of antiquity 
they certainly are, and strongly conservative in their mental ten- 
dencies ; but they have not been content, as is too commonly 
supposed, to hand down from the earliest times a small stock of 
crystallized ideas without increase or modification. The germs 
of their civilization, like those of any civilization worth preserving:, 
are not precious stones to be kept in a casket, but seeds to be 
cultivated and improved. In fact, modifications have taken place 
on an extensive scale, foreign elements have from time to time 
been engrafted on the native root, and the native scholar, as he fol- 
lows back the pathway of history, fails to discover anything like 
uniformity or constancy, except in a few of the most fundamental 
principles. The doctrine of filial piety, carried to the point of 
religious devotion, extends like a golden thread through all the 
ages, as the foundation of family ties and social order ; -while the 
principle of the divine origin of government, administered by 
one man as the representative of Heaven, and modified by the 
corresponding doctrine that the will of Heaven is expressed in 
the will of the people, is found alike in every period as the ba- 
sis of their civil institutions. 

Though not so much given to change as their more mercurial 
antipodes, it is still true that the constant factors of their civili- 
zation have been few, and the variable ones many. Bold inno- 
vations and radical revolutions rise to view all along in the ret- 
rospect of their far-reaching past, and prepare them to anticipate 
the same for the future. With such antecedents, and such a 
character for intellectual activity, it would be next to impossible 
that they should not be profoundly affected by their contacts 
and collisions with the civilization of Christendom. 

In point of fact, the impression is profound, though it was 


not immediately apparent. For more than thirty years the 
West has been acting on China by the combined influence of its. 
arms, its commerce, its religion, and its science. Some of these 
influences commenced to operate at a much earlier date, and 
.their effects were by no means insignificant ; but of late years 
all of them have been combined with an oxyhydrogen-blow-pipe 
intensity that one would think sufficient to melt a mountain of 
adamant. They could not, in the nature of things, have been 
brought to bear on China so effectively at any earlier period, on 
account of her geographical isolation. 

In some respects a great advantage, this was, in others, a seri- 
ous drawback. Almost separated from the whole world, as the 
Romans said of Britain, she had a magnificent arena in which to 
grow undisturbed and develop her peculiar culture. The moun- 
tains of Thibet rose like a giant breakwater between her and 
that tide-wave of Western conquest which swept away the co- 
eval empires of Babylon and Persia; while an ocean not yet 
ploughed by the keels of civilized commerce washed her eastern 
shore, and a vast expanse of inhospitable plains stretched away 
to the north. She grew up, of consequence, without a rival a 
giant surrounded by pygmies, a pyramid in the midst of mole- 
hills. The weak nationalities and wandering tribes by whom 
she was surrounded rendered her a willing homage, more im- 
pressed by the spectacle of her greatness than affected by dread 
of her military power; and China, on her part, was accustomed 
to treat them with condescending patronage or disdainful con- 
tempt. Thus, when she first became aware of the existence of 
the great nations of the West, she judged of them by the tribes 
on her own frontiers ; and when they approached her by em- 
bassies, she employed towards them the forms and language she 
had been accustomed to use in dealing with her semi-barbarous 
neighbors. She assumed a tone of superiority, pronounced them 
barbarians, and demanded tribute. 

For a long time they were too remote to cause her great un- 


easiness, or to do anything that could materially alter this state 
of feeling. She saw, it is true, the Russians extending their 
frontiers from the Ural to Kamtschatka, and England pushing 
her conquests to the banks of the Irrawaddy. But the fate of 
scattered nomads and decayed nationalities was no warning to. 
her. Even when those great powers approached her in hostile 
array, she was still confident of her ability to resist them. 
Hence the arrogant tone which she assumed in intercourse with 
them, and, until very recently, continued to maintain. 

It was this arrogance that precipitated the Opium war of 
1839; and the result did so little to overcome it that in 1856 
a display of equal or greater arrogance brought on another col- 
lision. For more than three years the Chinese government 
persisted in applying their old policy to the Anglo-French in- 
vaders, still hoping to terminate the conflict by their expulsion 
rather than by conceding the points in dispute. When, how- 
ever, their last army had been beaten, their Emperor had fled, 
and his palace lay in ruins, the Chinese awoke to the reality of 
their situation. They opened the gates of their capital, and 
from that day to this no serious thought of trying the issue of an- 
other such conflict has crossed the mind of any of their statesmen. 

This lesson was decisive an experience of inestimable value, 
without which all the attempts of Western nations to benefit 
the Chinese must have proved like attempting to irrigate the 
side of a mountain by projecting water from its base. 

The effect was immediate. The Chinese were, for the first 
time, convinced that they had something to learn ; and within 
less than a year from the close of hostilities, large bodies of 
Chinese troops might have been seen learning foreign tactics 
under foreign drill-masters, on the very battle-grounds where 
they had been defeated. Arsenals, well supplied with machin- 
ery from foreign countries, were put in operation at four impor- 
tant points, one of them employing as many as nine hundred 
workmen ; and navy-yards were established at two of the princi- 


pal seaports, where the construction of steam gunboats, entirely 
by native mechanics, is now going forward.* 

But does not all this wear rather an aspect of hostility ? Does 
it not indicate that the Chinese, worsted in the late contest, are 
preparing for another ? 

The necessity, we answer, of providing themselves with more 
efficient means for suppressing their own rebellions is sufficient 
to account for it. But, after all, the motive is of little conse- 
quence the important fact is that the Chinese are learning. 
With them the day of bows and arrows, bamboo spears, and 
lumbering war-junks has passed away, and they intend hence- 
forth to make war like other nations, in a Christian style. They 
mean to be able to keep the peace within their own borders, and 
to maintain their self-respect in the face of the world. 

But they do not stop here ; if they did, there might be ground 
for suspicion. But they are a pacific people, both from disposi- 
tion and tradition, using war neither as a pastime nor a business, 
but resorting to it solely as a matter of necessity. As such they 
are now learning it, and applying themselves at the same time 
to the cultivation of the arts of peace. 

At three of the open ports they have established schools for 
the study of the languages and sciences of the West; and, in 
connection with the arsenal at Shanghai, the mandarins have 
employed three gentlemen, skilled in the Chinese language, to 
translate works on science and the useful arts. 

These institutions, it might be said, are established at impor- 
tant outposts, under the auspices of provincial viceroys ; but they 
are hardly sufficient to justify the conclusion that the central 

* Two other arsenals have since been opened at provincial capitals in the 
interior one of them, however, being speedily suppressed by orders from 
the throne ; the other, at Tsinanfu, in Shantung, is described by an English 
engineer as in successful operation a fact worth noting, as no foreign hand 
had any share in its construction. No better proof could be given of the 
capacity of the Chinese to acquire the arts of the West. 


government is adopting an enlightened and liberal policy. But 
has not the Imperial government at length afforded this evidence 
by the college which it has established in the capital for the 
introduction of Western science, and the embassy it has sent 
forth to cultivate friendly relations with the nations of the West ? 

The embassy,* and especially the treaties it is now negotiating, 
are sufficient evidence of liberality in the policy of the govern- 
ment ; but the college in which graduates in the schools of Con- 
fucius are invited to become pupils is the most undeniable proof 
of a great intellectual movement.f It was established at the in- 
stance of Prince Kung, uncle to the Emperor, and the most in- 
fluential man in the Empire. 

Two memorials of the Prince, one containing the proposal 
and the other explaining and vindicating it, were laid before 
his Majesty and published in the official gazette, after receiving 
the Imperial sanction, constituting them a charter for the new 
institution. The second of these papers we translate from the 
pages of the gazette, and here insert, as affording a photograph 
of the attitude of the Chinese mind in relation to these subjects. 
Four of the ministers who joined the Prince in presenting it 
are heads of departments in the government. 

" Memorial of Prince Kung on the Establishment of a College 
for the Cultivation of Western Science. 

" Your Majesty's servant, and other ministers of the Council 

* Instead of that " Ecumenical Embassy " with its special objects, we now 
see permanent Chinese legations established in the principal capitals of the 
West, and diplomatic intercourse conducted on a basis of reciprocity. In 
addition, a consular system has been inaugurated, the future extent and in- 
fluence of which it would be difficult to foretell. 

f Since the date of the above this tendency has shown itself in a new di- 
rection in the sending of large numbers of youth for education to the Unit- 
ed States and other countries, Mr. Yung-wing, himself a graduate of an 
American college, being a principal leader of the movement. 


for Foreign Affairs, on their knees present this memorial in re- 
gard to regulations for teaching astronomy and mathematics, 
and the selection of students. 

"These sciences being indispensable to the understanding of 
machinery and the manufacture of fire-arms, we have resolved on 
erecting for this purpose a special department in the Tung-wen 
College, to which scholars of a high grade may be admitted, and 
in which men from the West shall be invited to give instruction. 

" The scheme having met with your Majesty's approval, we beg 
to state that it did not originate in a fondness for novelties or in 
admiration for the abstract subtleties of Western science; but 
solely from the consideration that the mechanical arts of the 
AA r est all have their source in the science of mathematics. Now, 
if the Chinese government desires to introduce the building of 
steamers and construction of machinery, and yet declines to 
borrow instruction from the men of the West, there is danger 
lest, following our own ideas, we should squander funds to no 

" We have weighed the matter maturely before laying it before 
the throne. But among persons who are unacquainted with 
the subject, there are some who will regard this matter as unim- 
portant ; some who will censure us as wrong in abandoning the 
methods of China for those of the West ; and some who will 
even denounce the proposal that Chinese should submit to be 
instructed by the people of the West as shameful in the ex- 
treme. Those who urge such objections are ignorant of the de- 
mands of the times. 

" In the first place, it is high time that some plan should be de- 
vised for infusing new elements of strength into the government 
of China. Those who understand the times are of opinion that 
the only way for effecting this is to introduce the learning and 
mechanical arts of Western nations. Provincial governors, such 
as Tsotsungtang and Lehungchang, are firm in this conviction, 
and constantly presenting it in their addresses to the throne. 



The last-mentioned officer last year opened an arsenal for the 
manufacture of arms, and invited men and officers from the 
metropolitan garrison to go there for instruction ; while the 
other established in Fuchau a school for the study of foreign 
languages and arts, with a view to the instruction of young men 
in ship-building and the manufacture of engines. The urgency 
of such studies is therefore an opinion which is not confined to 
us your servants. 

" Should it be said that the purchase of fire-arms and steamers 
has been tried, and found to be both cheap and convenient, so 
that we may spare ourselves the trouble and expense of home 
production, we reply that it is not merely the manufacture of 
arms and the construction of ships that China needs to learn. 
But in respect to these two objects, which is the wiser course, in 
view of the future to content ourselves with purchase, and leave 
the source of supply in the hands of others, or to render our- 
selves independent by making ourselves masters of their arts it 
is hardly necessary to inquire. 

" As to the imputation of abandoning the methods of China, is 
it not altogether a fictitious charge? For, on inquiry, it will be 
found that Western science had its root in the astronomy of 
China, which Western scholars confess themselves to have de- 
rived from Eastern lands. They have minds adapted to reason- 
ing and abstruse study, so that they were able to deduce from it 
new arts which shed a lustre on those nations ; but, in reality, the 
original belonged to China, and Europeans learned them from 
us. If, therefore, we apply ourselves to those studies, our future 
progress will be built on our own foundation. Having the root 
in our possession, we shall not need to look to others for assist- 
ance an advantage which it is impossible to overestimate. 

" As to the value to he set on the science of the West, your il- 
lustrious ancestor Kanghe gave it his hearty approbation, pro- 
moting its teachers to offices of conspicuous dignity, and em- 
ploying them to prepare the Imperial calendar ; thus setting an 


example of liberality equalled only by the vastness of bis all- 
comprehending wisdom. Our dynasty ought not to forget its 
own precedents, especially in relation to a matter which occupied 
the first place among the studies of the ancients. 

" In olden times yeomen and common soldiers were all acquaint- 
ed with astronomy ; but in later ages an interdict was put upon 
it, and those who cultivated this branch of science became few. 
In the reign of Kanghe, the prohibition was removed and as- 
tronomical science once more began to flourish. Mathematics 
were studied together with the classics, the evidence of which 
we find in the published works of several schools. A proverb 
says, ' A thing unknown is a scholar's shame.' Now, when a 
man of letters, on stepping from his door, raises his eyes to the 
stars and is unable to tell what they are, is not this enough to 
make him blush ? Even if no schools were established, the edu- 
cated ought to apply themselves to such studies; how much 
more so when a goal is proposed for them to aim at ? 

" As to the allegation that it is a shame to learn from the peo- 
ple of the West, this is the absurdest charge of all. For, under 
the whole heaven, the deepest disgrace is that of being content 
to lag in the rear of others. For some tens of years the nations 
of the West have applied themselves to the study of steam nav- 
igation, each imitating the others and daily producing some new 
improvement. Recently, too, the government of Japan has sent 
men to England for the purpose of acquiring the language and 
science of Great Britain. This was with a view to the building 
of steamers, and it will not be many years before they succeed. 

"Of the jealous rivalry among the nations of the Western 
Ocean it is unnecessary to speak ; but when so small a country 
as Japan is putting forth all its energies, if China alone contin- 
ues to tread indolently in the beaten track, without a single ef- 
fort in the way of improvement, what can be more disgraceful 
than this ? Now, not to be ashamed of our inferiority, but, when 
a measure is proposed by which we may equal or even surpass 


our neighbors, to object the shame of learning from them, and, 
forever refusing to learn, to be content with our inferiority is 
not such meanness of spirit itself an indelible reproach ? 

" If it be said that machinery belongs to artisans, and that schol- 
ars should not condescend to such employments, in answer to 
this, we have a word to say. Why is it that the book in the 
Chowle on the structure of chariots has for some thousands of 
years been a recognized text-book in all the schools ? Is it not 
because, while mechanics do the work, scholars ought to under- 
stand the principles ? When principles are understood, their ap- 
plication will be extended. The object which we propose for 
study to-day is the principles of things. To invite educated 
men to enlarge the sphere of their knowledge by investigating 
the laws of nature is a very different thing from compelling 
them to take hold of the tools of the workingman. What oth- 
er point of doubt is left for us to clear up ? 

" In conclusion, we would say that the object of study is utility, 
and its value must be judged by its adaptation to the wants of 
the times. Outsiders may vent their doubts and criticisms, but 
the measure is one that calls for decisive action. Your servants 
have considered it maturely. As the enterprise is a new one, its 
principles ought to be carefully examined. To stimulate candi- 
dates to enter in earnest on the proposed curriculum, they ought 
to have a liberal allowance from the public treasury to defray 
their current expenses, and have the door of promotion set wide 
open before them. We have accordingly agreed on six regula- 
tions, which we herewith submit to the eye of your Majesty, and 
wait reverently for the Imperial sanction. 

" We are of opinion that the junior members of the Ilanlin In- 
stitute, being men of superior attainments, while their duties are 
not onerous, if they were appointed to study astronomy and 
mathematics, would find those sciences an easy acquisition. With 
regard to scholars of the second and third grades, as also man- 
darins of the lower ranks, we request your Majesty to open the 


portals and admit them to be examined as candidates, that we 
may have a larger number from whom to select men of ability 
for the public service. 

" Laying this memorial before the throne, we beseech the Em- 
presses regent and the Emperor to cast on it their sacred glance, 
and to give us their instructions." 

The Imperial placet is added with the " vermilion pencil." It 
says, " Let the measures proposed in the memorial be adopted." 

This remarkable document shows us the humiliation felt by 
the Chinese mind to find itself, on awakening, in the rear of the 
age; and exhibits in an amusing light the sophistical artifices 
resorted to by the friends of progress to avert the odium which 
their proposed movement was certain to excite. It shows us 
the two parties in conflict, and acquaints us with the position 
occupied by each. The conservatives take their stand within 
the old intrenchments of pride and prejudice, while their assail- 
ants are attempting to dislodge them by the force of arguments 
drawn from necessity. 

The latter are the party in power; and this paper, designed 
at once to vindicate the action of the government and to refute 
the narrow views of those who would adhere to the policy of its 
predecessors, goes forth to the people of the Empire under the 
seal of their sovereign, and endorsed by governors and viceroys. 

The minds that are thus enlightened are few, but they are 
the most eminent in the State; and when we see the rays of 
morning glancing on the highest peaks of a mountain-range, we 
may be sure that it will not be long before the light reaches 
those of lesser elevation, or penetrates to the valleys that lie be- 
tween them. Under a government constituted like that of China, 
an immense advantage lies on the side of those in power. What- 
ever cause they advocate is sure to be respected by the people ; 
and in this case, convinced that ignorance is the bane of their 
people, they are in earnest in endeavoring to apply the remedy. 


Nor are these enlightened views confined to the heads of the 
government. An increasing avidity for books of science is per- 
ceptible among the literary classes ; some of whom contribute 
liberally for the publication of scientific works, and feel repaid 
by the honor of having their names associated with the advance- 
ment of learning. 

To meet this growing taste for real knowledge, the Viceroy 
of Kiangnan is now bringing out a series of works on scientific 
subjects, mostly by European authors, employing at a high sala- 
ry, in the capacity of editor, a learned native who was instructed 
by English missionaries. One of the works last published is 
Ricci's translation of Euclid, enlarged by A. Wylie, Esq., late of 
the London mission. It contains a preface by the last-named 
gentleman, in which he replies to the common charge that mis- 
sionaries take advantage of mathematics to propagate Christian- 
ity by admitting the fact and setting forth the transcendent 
value of religious truth. This preface is reprinted entire with- 
out the alteration of a word ; nor does the viceroy, in the intro- 
duction from his own pen, bring forward anything to counteract 
its influence. 

The views of the more advanced members of this scholarly 
class are well set forth in an essay lately published in a Chinese 
newspaper by Chang-lu-seng,* a gentleman of wealth and titular 
rank, who has lately published two small volumes, one on engi- 
neering and the other on chemistry. 

As a testimony to the scientific labors of missionaries as well 
as an index of intellectual progress, it is of sufficient value to jus- 
tify us in translating a few paragraphs. He is discussing a ques- 
tion much mooted among the Chinese, that of the advantages 
and disadvantages of foreign intercourse. 

" Commencing," he says, " with the last years of the Ming 
dynasty, we opened the seaports of Kwangtung to foreign trade, 

* Now gj $j , or Vice-minister to Japan. 


doing a profitable business in tea and silks, receiving in return 
fabrics of woollen and cotton suited to our wants ; as well as 
clocks, matches, mirrors, and other articles of luxury. But opium 
came in at the same time, and its poisonous streams have pene- 
trated to the core of the Flowery Land. The blame of this partly 
rests on us ; but when we go to the root of the evil, it is impos- 
sible to exculpate the English from the guilt of originating the 

" Foreigners, with their ships and steamers, have, moreover, 
monopolized the carrying trade of the sea-coast and the great 
rivers ; throwing thousands of seafaring natives out of employ, 
and causing great distress." 

To the advantage derived from the purchase of foreign arms, 
from the assistance of foreigners in suppressing the late rebellion, 
and, above all, from the protection which they extended over the 
open ports, he does ample justice. Yet in striking a balance- 
sheet, he still concludes that the " advantages derived from for- 
eign commerce are not sufficient to make amends for the evils 
to which it has given rise. But the benefits which we derive 
from the teachings of missionaries are more than we can enu- 

He then recapitulates the publications of missionaries on sci- 
entific subjects, commencing with those of the Jesuit fathers of 
two centuries ago, and coming down to those of the Protestants 
of the present day ; and closes the catalogue with the remark, 
" All these are the works of missionaries : they are well adapted 
to, augment the knowledge and quicken the intellect of China. 
Their influence on our future will be unbounded." 

lie does not stop with the scientific teachings of missionaries. 
" China," he says, " is much given to idolatry, which is to us a 
source of wasteful and foolish practices. Now Christianity 
teaches men to renounce the worship of idols, in conformity 
with the maxim of Confucius, ' that he who sins against Heaven 
will pray in vain to any other.' Should we attend to these in- 


structions, our women would cease to frequent the temples, and 
we should waste no more money on idolatrous processions. 
Monasteries would be converted into private residences, and their 
yellow-capped occupants would not be seen fleecing the people 
by their deceptions. Their sorceries and charms would be 
laughed at, and this would indeed be a great gain." 

The author of these paragraphs has very little sympathy with 
the spiritual elements of our holy faith, but, like many of his 
countrymen, he views it with favor, as a powerful agency, co-op- 
erating with the diffusion of science, to emancipate his country 
from the bondage of superstition. 

Such views as these, it is hardly necessary to say, have not yet 
become the staple of public opinion. The opposition outnum- 
bers the administration, and pamphlets against Christianity and 
science are more numerous than those in their favor. Still, 
enough, we think, has been said to show that the tide is turn- 
ing. Chinese statesmen of both schools recognize the incipient 
change. Some exert all their influence to check its progress ; 
while others, who describe their illiberal opponents as tso tsing 
kwan tien, " looking at the sky from the bottom of a well," are 
doing all in their power to help it forward. 

There is a word of frequent occurrence in the state-papers of 
the day which must prove a talisman of might to the progres- 
sive party. This is Chungking, a term allied in signification to 
that which we have placed at the head of this article. It relates 
specifically to dynastic renovations, such as that which occurred 
in the dynasty of Han, when that illustrious house, reviving after 
a period of decay, entered afresh on a career of glory. In the 
present case the Manchu family, which has given to the Empire 
some of its most distinguished sovereigns, was reduced to the 
verge of extinction by the combined influence of foreign wars 
and domestic rebellion. The late Emperor, Ilienfung, having 
fled to Tartary, and died of chagrin and despair, the victorious 
allies strove with laudable moderation to heal the wounds, so 


nearly fatal, which they had themselves inflicted ; and when his 
infant son, Tungche, succeeded to the throne, they afforded him 
both moral support and military aid. 

With peace abroad, and no longer any powerful enemy at 
home, the statesmen of China believe (and they have good 
grounds for the opinion) that their young Emperor comes to 
power at a most auspicious epoch. Favored with the friendship 
of powerful nations, and with sources of power unknown to an- 
tiquity placed within his reach, it is possible, as they think, and 
even probable, that his reign, by the splendor of its intellectual 
progress, may eclipse the military glory of his most illustrious 
ancestors. They desire to make the present reign the com- 
mencement of a new career, and are constantly exhorting one 
another to co-operate in the work of renovation. This is what 
they mean by Chungking ; and when they seek to effect it by the 
intellectual regeneration of their people, it acquires the full 
dignity of a national renaissance. 

But is it within the bounds of possibility that such a renais- 
sance should be achieved without the whole empire first passing 
through a period of disintegration ? Is it possible that this 
ancient people, hoary with years, and bowed beneath a load of 
traditions, should descend into the fountain of youth and emerge 
with all the freshness of manhood's prime, without undergoing 
the painful process of dismemberment and reconstruction? Or 
must they be cut piecemeal, like ^Eson of old, and thrown into 
the seething caldron before they can come forth a renovated 
people ? 

This is the great problem of the day, the question of " to be 
or not to be " in the politics of China. But, however it may be 
solved, as it relates to the government, the Chinese people must, 
and will, be renovated. Foreign diplomatists and statesmen feel 
that a mighty change must pass over the people, sweeping away 
their old superstitions, unchaining them from the oars of custom, 
and setting their minds free to labor in productive fields, before 



they can be qualified to develop the resources of their magnifi- 
cent patrimony. The most intelligent of them believe that such 
a change, though gradual in its approach, is certain to take 
place. Such men as H. B. M. Minister in Peking, -whose expe- 
rience in China dates back a quarter of a century ; such men as 
the chief of the Chinese Embassy, whose experience extends 
over seven years ; and such men as the Inspector-general of 
Imperial Customs, who has resided in China twice that length 
of time all have faith in the future of China, and favor well- 
devised schemes for the improvement of the Chinese people.* 

We have adverted to the encouragement which the advocates 
of progress among the Chinese derive from a prevailing impres- 
sion that the present is a time favorable for Chungking, or reno- 
vation. In addition to this, they have a powerful support in a 
saying of their Sage, expressed in the first sentence of the Tahio, 
or Great Study, that " it is the prime duty of the sovereign to 
seek the renovation of his people." 

To the renovation of the Chinese people, the most formidable 
obstacle is the use of opium, a vice of recent growth, for the 
prevalence of which they have to thank the unscrupulous cupid- 
ity of Christian nations. It undermines the physical system, 
impairs the mental faculties, and smites the moral nature with a 
kind of paralysis. It impoverishes the individual and the pub- 
lic, and hangs as a dead weight on the prosperity of the State. 
A little cloud at the commencement of the present century, it 
has expanded with alarming rapidity, until it casts heavy shad- 
ows over the prospect of the future and on the hearts of the 
well-wishers of China. It threatens to sap the vigor of the 
Chinese race a race that has seen the Egyptians and Assyrians 
laid in their graves, and continued till our own day with unim- 
paired vitality, sending forth fresh swarms from the old hive to 

* The gentlemen referred to are Sir R. Alcock, the Hon. Anson Bur- 
lingame, and Robert Hart, Esq. The last named still remains at his impor- 
tant post. 


colonize the steppes of Tartary and the islands of the sea, and 
to compete with European immigration on our own Pacific 

But happily an antidote is in the field. The Chinese have 
not attempted, like the Japanese, to weave their code of inter- 
national intercourse into a network which shall admit civilization 
and exclude Christianity.* On the contrary, the government has 
pledged itself in all its recent treaties to protect the propagators 
and professors of the Christian religion. Already is Christian- 
ity in some localities getting a hold on the popular mind ; and 
though it encounters violent opposition, culminating now and 
then in a furious outbreak, the Imperial power may at any time 
be invoked for its defence by the representative of a " Treaty " 
nation. It is working its way up through the lower strata of 
society, preparing its triumph from afar, proving itself a moral 
antiseptic to counteract the growth of corruption ; or rather a 
new principle of life, which will not merely conserve, but renovate, 
the Chinese race. To this grand result the intellectual move- 
ment which it is the special object of this article to indicate will 
prove itself a powerful auxiliary, like the revival of letters in 
modern Europe, preparing the way for a work of spiritual 

Can this renovation, we again ask, be effected under the scep- 
tre of the reigning house ? Without venturing a categorical 
answer, we only say that many propitious circumstances appear 
to concur in a remarkable manner. 

The present is a minority reign ; and the influential men who 
surround the throne are leaders in a movement to "infuse 
new elements of strength into the government of China." The 
Emperor, a lad of thirteen years, may imbibe their spirit and 

* How great a change has taken place in the attitude of Japan towards 
Christianity is apparent from the fact that a large body of missionaries are 
now engaged in openly and successfully carrying on their work in that 


shape his policy on theirs ; and in a few years, when he takes 
the reins of power into his own hands, he will receive in person, 
as by treaty bound, the ambassadors of foreign powers, lie will 
thus have an opportunity of acquiring new ideas, such as his 
fathers never enjoyed. 

The government, though rudely shaken and much exhausted, 
gives unmistakable signs of convalescence. With its growing 
superiority in discipline and arms, it can smile at the menaces of 
border tribes, and hold in check the seeds of domestic revolu- 
tion. China's greatest danger is from the great powers of the 

Russia covets her sunny plains and fine harbors, and France 
would not be averse to accepting China as an offset to British 
India. But England is too jealous of her great rivals to consent 
to any encroachment of this nature by either of them. The 
doctrine of the balance of power, formerly limited in its applica- 
tion to the map of Europe, is now transferred to Eastern Asia ; 
and it is under the shield of this principle alone that either 
China or Japan can hope to maintain her independence, or to go 
forward in that career of progress on which both have so auspi- 
ciously entered. 



Let the reader who may feel inclined to censure as over-sanguine the 
statements and anticipations of eleven years ago compare them with the 
following paragraphs, which I copy from an editorial article in the Shangliai 
Courier of January 7, 1880: 

"China is moving. She is moving in the path of progress, knowledge, 
and civilization. The rate of movement may be slow, much slower than her 
truest friends desire ; but the fact is beyond dispute. 

"A single illustration will show this. For the first time in the world's 
history the Chinese flag has lately been seen in the middle of the Pacific. 
That one fact, viewed in the light of the past, is in some respects more 
pregnant and suggestive than any which has occurred in connection with 
this Empire. That the nation which but the other day was content to con- 
duct its commerce by means of the old-fashioned junk, which rarely vent- 
ured very far from the shore, should send a steamer across the Pacific, and 
thus enter into competition with foreigners on what might almost be called 
their own element, is really an important historical fact. 

" But a few years ago China prohibited emigration, while other lands 
were seeking the services of the industrious Chinamen, and in a way main- 
taining their right to leave their native land. To-day those same countries 
are exerting themselves to repel the influx of the yellow race, while China 
is defending their right to foreign residence and good treatment. 

" In nearly all the courts of the civilized world there are representatives 
of China. Instead of being a feeble power tottering to ruin, and likely to 
fall a prey to any adventurer, she has shown her ability to crush out the 
most serious rebellions ; and when a Western empire, taking advantage of 
a temporary weakness, annexed one of her distant provinces, her diplomacy 
which, indeed, has rarely failed her enabled her to obtain its restoration. 
Instead of being looked upon with contempt as a military power, as a coun- 
try which a single regiment of skilled soldiers might overrun and hold in 
subjection, she has come to be considered as a factor not only in Asiatic, 
but in European, politics ; and it would seem that more than one of the most 
powerful nations of Europe were now courting her as a possible ally ia some 
future momentous struggle. Her long sea-coasts and rivers are buoyed and 
lighted ; some of her coal-mines are being worked under the superintend- 
ence of foreign engineers ; a short telegraph-line is in successful operation ; 


a company of native merchants own one of the largest fleets of steamers in 
the world ; and many millions of the natives are clothed with the produce 
of foreign manufactures. 

" We need not pursue the comparison further ; for we have, we think, 
mentioned sufficient to show that China is progressing, that she occupies a 
Tery different position to-day to what she did only a few years ago, and 
that there are indications of still greater changes in the not distant future. 
That foreign improvements and inventions should not be adopted more 
readily is to many a matter of disappointment and vexation ; but it should 
not be forgotten that national evolution is a slow process. China has been 
for some years, and is now, serving a kind of apprenticeship to true civiliza- 
tion ; and the knowledge which she is acquiring in various ways she will one 
day apply to her advantage. The young Chinese who are being trained in 
foreign systems, whether at home or abroad, and who in time will fill of- 
ficial positions ; the thousands who emigrate to foreign countries and return 
to live in their fatherland ; the increasing number of Chinese who are be- 
coming familiar in China with Western modes of life and government ; in 
fact, all ways by which East and West are virtually brought into closer con- 
tact, must cause the general, if gradual, adoption of Western ideas ; and the 
adoption of Western ideas means individual liberty, national safety, and in- 
creased comfort and prosperity." 





As the Chinese language has preserved for the student of 
philology one of the simplest forms of human speech, so in 
China the investigator of what has been called the science of re- 
ligion may find certain phases of primitive religion conserved to 
the present day in a state of arrested development. 

This has been effected by the agency of a settled government 
ruling over the same people for thousands of years, with only 
occasional interruptions, and these at long intervals; a govern- 
ment which early conceived the idea of ruling by inspiring its 
subjects with a respect for traditional forms as a substitute for 
military force. It has been said that the bamboo rules China, 
but it would be nearer the truth to assert that the Chinese are 
governed by custom. Among them more than anywhere else, 
custom has the force of law ; and they more than any other peo- 
ple have moulded all the relations of social life into opnformity 
with a complicated code of ritual observances. Etiquette with 
them becomes a kind of religion, and instead of being restricted 
to the narrow circle over which, in other countries, fashion reigns 
supreme, it is made a serious study in all the schools of the 
land. Sages have not disdained to teach it; and a high court 
exists, and has existed from the earliest ages, which takes cog- 
nizance of all questions relating to official manners, State cere- 
mony, and religious ritual. 

* Read before the American Oriental Society in New York, Oct. 28, 1880. 


This court is called the Board of Rites, and has nothing an- 
swering to it in the political constitutions of the West. 

We find it in full operation at the beginning of the third 
dynasty, B.C. 1150 ; and the idea of what has been denominated 
ceremonial government meets us a thousand years earlier in the 
opening pages of the Shuking, a book which presents us with 
the prologue to the long drama of Chinese history. 

The Emperor Shun, after an unsuccessful campaign against a 
rebellious district, is represented as bringing his refractory sub- 
jects to submission by the celebration of a religious pageant in 
the temple of his ancestors. Later writers say that the mon- 
archs of that halcyon period knew how to employ moral forces 
in place of physical ; or, as they express it, they secured the peace 
of the Empire by merely displaying their embroidered robes; 
which, means that they maintained in their palaces an imposing 
ceremonial, and caused their example to be followed as far as 
possible by officers and people. 

A government so wide-awake to the efficacy of the sentiment 
of reverence as a means for controlling the multitude could not 
fail to assign a large place to the regulation of religious rites. 
We are accordingly told in distinct terms that the dynasty of 
Shang, the second of the great houses which swayed the sceptre 
over the whole Empire, " employed the worship of the gods as 
an instrument of government." 

What gods were worshipped, and with what rites, in those 
early days when Moses was going To school to the priests of 
Memphis, and when Cecrops had not yet landed on the shores 
of Attica, we are not minutely informed; but in the next era, 
that of the long dynasty of Chau, B.C. 1150-300, under which 
the civilization of China was crystallized into its permanent and 
distinctive shape, we find the national religion consisting of three 
elements: 1. The worship of Shangti, the Supreme Ruler; 2. 
The worship of powers supposed to preside over the principal 
departments of material nature ; and 3. The worship of deceased 



The first two of these divisions I shall pass by as not belong- 
ing to our present subject, merely observing that they both meet 
us at the dawn of Chinese history in a much more distinct form 
than that which is assumed by the worship of ancestors. This 
is what we should expect from the order of mental development. 
Man opens his eyes on the external world before he learns to re- 
flect on the phenomena of his own mind. He personifies the 
forces of nature, and marshals them into a hierarchy under the 
hegemony of some supreme divinity "Jehovah, Jove, or Lord" 
before he arrives at a conception of his own personal immor- 
tality. This done, the idea of a renewed or continued existence 
in some unseen world in the company of the gods is one which 
is not slow to rise ; suggested, as it is, by a thousand analogies, 
and gratifying, as it does, our instinctive love of life, and aspira- 
tions after progress. 

Few tribes have been found so rude as not to have formed 
some notion of a heaven or hell. The Zulus, prior to their con- 
tact with the white settlers of the Cape, were accustomed to ac- 
count for disturbing dreams and bodily disease by saying that 
they were troubled by the spirits of their ancestors. The North 
American Indian expects to rejoin his forefathers in the " happy 
hunting-ground ;" and the rude progenitors of our own race in 
the wilds of Northern Europe had their courage fired by the 
promise of a place in Walhalla by the side of Odin. At the 
dawn of history we find the same belief already rooted in the 
Chinese mind. 

Thus, in the first chapter of the Shuking, their earliest histor- 
ical record, we read the simple statement, " The Emperor died ;" 
but the ideograph by which the notion of death is here expressed, 
besides being different from the common character, is composed 
of two parts which convey the idea of being " gathered to one's 
fathers." The authorized commentary, without referring "to ety- 


mology, explains it as signifying the return of the physical ele- 
ments to earth, and the ascent of the spiritual part to heaven. 
But, not to cite other passages, the traditional view of the an- 
cient Chinese is more clearly indicated by a poet who flourished 
about the epoch of the Trojan war, who sees in vision "\Ycn- 
wang, the founder of the house of Chau, promoted to be a min- 
istering spirit in the palace of the Supreme Kuler. Nor is this 
merely a poetical apotheosis which springs from flattery of the 
great. Not long after that date, we find it a common belief that 
children meet their parents in a state of conscious existence in 
some subterranean Elysium. Thus Chuang-kung, the Duke of 
Cheng, enraged at the conduct of his mother, who had abetted 
a conspiracy of his younger brother (another Parysatis favoring 
another Cyrus), makes a hasty vow that he will never see her 
face until he meets her under the earth. Repenting his rash- 
ness, and longing for reconciliation, he eagerly embraces an ex- 
pedient for evading the fulfilment of his vow by meeting his 
mother in a subterranean grotto. Shallow and almost comical 
as is the artifice by which he imposes on conscience in favor of 
affection, it points to a national belief as distinctly as does Ho- 
mer's narrative of Ulysses seeking his father among the Cim- 
merian shades, or Virgil's story of ^Eneas's descent into Aver- 

From faith in a future state, the practice of presenting offer- 
ings to the dead came into use as a matter of course ; nor among 
the ancient Chinese were the offerings confined to fruits and 
flowers. At the time when Polyxena was immolated on the 
tomb of Achilles, it was the custom to despatch a retinue of 
slaves and favorite concubines to follow the spirit of a prince or 
noble into the world of shades. This was abolished, we are told, 
about B.C. 700 ; and the occasion is thus related : 

A prince of one of the feudal states having deceased, his 
principal wife proposed to give him a magnificent funeral, and 
to offer an unusual number of men and maidens to accompany 


his manes. The Prince's brother replied, " If any one is to be 
sacrificed, your Ladyship shall be the first, for his Highness loved 
no one better than you." The Princess declined the honor, and 
the spell of custom was broken forever. 

A reminiscence of the cruel rite was, however, long retained in 
the substitution of effigies made of straw which were buried 
with the corpse ; a trace of it may even be discovered in the 
present day in the burning of paper images, and perhaps also in 
the suicide of widows. Against the interment of effigies, Con- 
fucius raised an energetic protest, because they bore the sem- 
blance of human victims; and now and then a censor morum 
lifts his voice against the self-immolation of Chinese widows; 
but such acts of conjugal devotion are always rewarded by pop- 
ular applause, and not unfrequently signalized by marks of Im- 
perial favor. 

Considerable amounts of jewelry and treasure are sometimes 
enclosed in the coffins of the rich ; and a premium is thus of- 
fered to the commission of what in Chinese law is treated as a 
capital crime. But in general the Chinese, in making offerings 
to the dead, have an eye to the wants of the living ; of the fruits 
and meats, enough remains, after their spiritual essence has been 
enjoyed by the soul of the departed, to provide a feast for the 
family ; and instead of silver and gold, masses of gilt paper are 
made to do duty ; and on passing through the flames they are 
supposed to be transmuted into the metals which they simulate. 

The offerings at the tombs are renewed every spring and au- 
tumn ; and on fine days the population of a city may be seen 
pouring forth in all directions, seeking out the sepulchres of 
their ancestors, and combining religious duty with much-needed 
recreation. But there is another place where the offerings are 
more frequent. This is the ancestral temple. Here the deceased 
are represented, not by images or pictures, but by slips of wood 
inscribed with their names. Tablets representing near relatives 
are preserved in a shrine in the family residence. Those com- 


mon to a clan or tribe are honored with a temple of more or less 
extent, according to the wealth of the community. 

Before these memorial tablets every member of the house- 
hold prostrates himself at least twice a month viz., at the new 
and full moon. Every important event affecting the family is 
solemnly announced to the ancestors ; marriages are solemnized 
in their presence; and anew bride presents offerings to her hus- 
band's ancestors in token of adoption into their family. 


Such, in outline, is the system of ancestral worship, which con- 
stitutes the central division, and, as it were, the very heart, of the 
religion of China. The Supreme Ruler is too august to be ap- 
proached by ordinary mortals. As to other divinities, their 
worship is incumbent only on priests or magistrates ; but the 
worship of ancestors is obligatory upon all. They are the pc- 
nates of every household. To honor them is religion ; to neg- 
lect them the highest impiety. 

We have seen how usages of this kind spring as naturally as 
the grass from the graves of the deceased ; and that in ancient 
times the funeral rites of the Chinese differed little from those 
of other nations. That by which they are justly distinguished 
is that, instead of suffering them to be overshadowed by poly- 
theism, they alone have shaped their offices for the dead into an 
all-pervading and potent cult which moulds the social and spir- 
itual life of every individual in the Empire. 

Spontaneous in its origin, in its progressive development it 
is the slow growth of thirty centuries. It is probable that it 
was practised in the Golden Age of Chinese history, two thousand 
years before the Christian era ; and in the rites of Chow, a thou- 
sand years later, we find it reduced to a precise and complicated 
code ; but it was not so stereotyped as to be incapable of further 
alteration. It was then disfigured by grotesque ceremonies, the 
reproduction of which at the present day would be regarded as 


hardly less shocking than the restoration of human sacrifices I 
allude particularly to that curious arrangement by which a sol- 
emn act of religion was converted into a ridiculous masquerade 
young children being made to personate their ancestors, and, 
habited in ghostly costume, receiving the homage of their own 
parents. Nor was it then clothed with the imperious authority 
which it now exercises. In the life of Confucius we find record- 
ed the remarkable fact that when arrived at manhood he was 
ignorant of the burial-place of his father, who had died when he 
was an infant, and it was not until the death of his mother that 
he took pains to ascertain it. This indicates a degree of laxity 
which would not be possible at the present day, when semi- 
annual offerings are required to be made at the tombs of ances- 

Yet it is to Confucius more than to any other man that China 
is indebted for the strictness with which the rites of this worship 
are now universally observed. Making filial piety the corner- 
stone of his ethical system, and only vaguely recognizing the 
personality of the supreme power, whom he styles Tien, or 
Heaven, he was led to seek in the worship of ancestors for the 
religious sanctions required to confirm it. " If," said he, " funer- 
al rites are performed with scrupulous care, and remote ancestors 
duly recognized, the virtues of the people will be strengthened." 
This is a maxim which lies at the foundation of the religious 
polity of the Chinese Empire. 

The more objectionable features in ancestral worship are not 
due to Confucius, and derive no sanction from his authority ; I 
mean the belief in an active interest taken by the deceased in the 
fortunes of their posterity, which leads to their virtual deifica- 
tion, and the absurd doctrine that the destinies of the family are 
determined by the location of the family tombs. 

The first of these springs so readily from the human heart 
that it is unnecessary to look for its origin in the teachings of 
any particular school. It is touching to read on a tombstone 


that a mourning family, Laving laid an aged parent in his last 
resting-place, beseech his spirit to hover over them as a protect- 
ing power. But the Chinese are not so taught by Confucius, 
who, when interrogated as to the survival of the soul, refused to 
admit that it possesses any conscious existence after the death 
of the body ; and who, while exhorting to sincerity in sacrifices, 
went no further than to say, "Sacrifice to the spirits as ifiktiy 
were present." 

The other tenet is derived from fung-shui, or geomancy, the 
debasing offshoot of a degenerate Taoism. This false science, 
which bears to geology a relation similar to that which astrology 
bears to astronomy, assumes the existence of certain influences 
connected with the configuration of the surface which affect the 
destinies of the inhabitants of any given locality. These must 
be taken account of in selecting the site of a dwelling-house, 
a school, a shop, or even a stable, and especially a burial-place. 
So strong is the conviction on this last point that families 
who are overtaken by a series of misfortunes are often persuad- 
ed to exhume the bones of their forefathers, and shift them, per- 
haps more than once, to a new location, in hopes of hitting on 
the focus of auspicious influences. This superstition is even car- 
ried into the domain of politics ; so that the government, on sup- 
pressing a rebellious emeute, has been known to order the de- 
struction of the family tombs of the rebel chief, in order to 
strike at what is supposed to be the fountain-head of the dis- 
turbing influence. 

Buddhism has also exerted a profound influence on the wor- 
ship of ancestors, strengthening, as it has done, the instinctive 
faith in a future state, and introducing an elaborate liturgy for 
the repose of the departed. 


After the rapid sketch which we have now given of the rise 
of ancestral worship, and its relation to the Three Religions, it 


may be worth while to inquire what influence it has exerted on 
the civilization of China. If we were to attempt an answer in a 
single sentence, we should say, it has been deeper than that of 
all other religions combined. It forms the essence of the State 
religion ; and while other religious systems are simply tolerated, 
this alone is inculcated by Imperial authority. 

The Imperial house sets the example in what it regards as 
the highest form of filial piety. Not only are separate shrines 
erected for the ancestors of the reigning family ; the Emperor, 
according to immemorial usage, even associates them with 
.Shangti, the Supreme Kuler, in the sacrifices which, as high- 
priest of the Empire, he makes at the Temple of Heaven. 

The visitor who is fortunate enough to gain access to an azure- 
colored pagoda on the north of the principal altar may see there 
a tablet inscribed with the name of Shangti occupying the cen- 
tral place of honor, while the tablets of ten generations of the 
reigning family are ranged on the right and left. Three of these 
never set foot in China, nor in any proper sense can they be said 
to have occupied the Imperial throne. 

Two of them reigned in Liaotung, over a single province, and 
one was the chief of a roving tribe in the wilds of Manchuria ; 
yet on the occupation of China by their descendants, they were 

all canonized or raised by Imperial decree to the dignity of Em- 


This tendency of the stream of honor to flow upwards is pe- 
culiar to China. There alone is it possible for a distinguished 
son to lift his deceased parents out of obscurity, and to confer 
on their names the reflected lustre of his own rank. 

It is not easy for us to understand the force of the motive 
which is thus brought to bear on a generous mind nurtured un- 
der the influence of such traditions. Kwang-tsung-yau-tsu, " Be 
. careful to reflect glory on your forefathers," is a hortatory for- 
mula, addressed alike to the soldier on tho battle-field and the 
student in the halls of learning. 



If, as President Hayes asserted in a recent speech at San Fran- 
cisco, " those who show the greatest respect for their ancestors 
are most likely to be distinguished by their regard for posterity," 
the Chinese ought to excel all men in that sentiment, so essential 
to the well-being of a State ; certain it is that their worship of 
ancestors fosters the sentiment in a most effectual manner. 

The man who worships his forefathers, and believes in their 
conscious existence, naturally desires to leave offspring who shall 
keep the fires burning on the family altar, and regale his own 
spirit with periodical oblations. Mencius accordingly lays it 
down as a maxim that "of the three offences against filial piety,, 
the greatest is to be childless " a dictum which has contributed 
not a little to promote the practice of early marriage, and the 
consequent enormous expansion of the population of China. 
Viewed in this latter aspect, the reflex influence of ancestral 
worship may be considered as a doubtful boon ; but as to the 
underlying sentiment, were it wisely directed to providing for t 
the welfare of coming generations as well as to bringing them 
into existence, its beneficial effects would be of inestimable value. 

The worship of ancestors strengthens the ties of kinship, and 
binds together those family and tribal groups on which the gov- 
ernment so much relies for the control of its individual subjects. 
The family temple serves for a church, theatre, school -house, 
council-room, and indeed for all the varied objects required by 
the exigencies of a village community. Domains attached to it 
for the maintenance of the sacrifices are held as common prop- 
erty ; and glebe-lands are often appended which' are devoted to 
the support of needy members of the widely extended connec- 
tion. I have seen a town of twenty-five thousand people, all be- 
longing to the same clan, and bearing the same family name. A 
conspicuous edifice near the centre bore the name of She-tsu- 
miao, i. e. temple of our first ancestor. Here the divergent . 
branches of the family tree met in a common root ; and all the 
citizens, under the cloud of incense arising from a common sac- 


rificc, were led to feel the oneness of their origin ; though sep- 
arated, it might be, by half a millennium. Such a village resem- 
bles the growth of a banyan-tree the most distant column in 
the living arcade, though resting on a root of its own, still main- 
taining a vital connection with the parent stock. 

Aside from its social and economic relations, this form of wor- 
ship exerts a religious and moral influence beyond any other sys- 
tem of doctrines hitherto known to the Chinese Empire. In a 
'sceptical world, and through ages not favored with that revela- 
tion which has " brought life and immortality to light," it has 
kept alive the faith in a future life. The orthodox son of Han 
regards himself as living and acting in the sight of his ancestors. 
He refers his confluct to their supposed judgment, and the com- 
fort of his dying hour is largely determined by the view he takes 
of the kind of welcome he is likely to receive when he meets 
the shades of his forefathers. 

" How could I look my ancestors in the face if I should con- 
sent to such a proposition ?" is a reply which many an officer 
has given to a temptation to betray his trust. A motive which 
has such power to deter from baseness may also be potent as a 
stimulus to good ; indeed, in respect to moral efficacy it would 
appear to be only second to that of faith in the presence of 
an all-seeing Deity. How effective it must be may be inferred 
from the fact that a Chinaman bent on wounding'his adversary 
in the keenest point curses, not the obnoxious individual, but 
his ancestors; because respect for them is the deepest of all 
his religious sentiments. 


In conclusion, the spectacle of a great nation with its whole 
population gathered round the altars of their ancestors, tracing 
their lineage up to the hundredth generation, and recognizing 
the ties of kindred to the hundredth degree, is one that partakes 
of the sublime. It suggests, moreover, two questions of no little 


interest: 1. May there not be some feature in the Chinese system 
which we might with advantage engraft on our Western civili- 
zation ? 2. In propagating Christianity in China, what attitude 
ought missionaries to assume towards that venerable institution ? 

If it be objected that a sufficient answer to both is found in 
the tendency of ancestral worship to fetter progress by pledging 
men to the imitation of the past, we reply that such an effect 
is by no means necessary ; that Chinese conservatism is due to 
other causes, and that men of the present generation may grate* 
fully acknowledge their obligations to the past, while conscious 
that they themselves constitute the highest stage in the skyward 
column of our growing humanity. The Vrilya, we are told in 
the instructive romance of Lord Lyttdn, with all their advanced 
ideas, still preserved with reverence the portraits of their early 
ancestors who had not yet attained the human shape. 

But the question of adopting such an institution is quite dis- 
tinct from that of uprooting it from a soil in which it has been 
prolific of blessings. Is it merely one of the many phases of 
pagan religion, which, however they may have subserved the 
cause of morality in a twilight age, must be regarded as purely 
obstructive in the light of Christian day, or may we not recog- 
nize in it some element of permanent good worthy to survive all 
changes in the national faith ? As a matter of fact, all mission- 
ary bodies, the Jesuits excepted, have taken the former view. 
Perceiving unmistakable evidence that filial'reverence had grown 
into idolatrous devotion, and memorial tablets become converted 
into objects of idolatrous homage, they have declared war against 
the entire system. 

It is, I confess, a suspicious circumstance to find the Jesuits 
tolerating the traditional rites, while Dominican and Francis- 
can, Greek and Protestant, all concur in rejecting them. Yet I 
cannot bring myself to feel that the latter have been wholly 
right, or the former altogether wrong. Had the policy of the 
Jesuits been followed, the adherents of the Church of Rome 


might have been spared a century of persecution, and it is prob- 
able that the religion of India might have been supplanted by 
that of Europe ; for nothing has ever aroused such active op- 
position to Christianity as the discovery that it stands in irrec- 
oncilable antagonism to the worship of ancestors. The deci- 
sion of the Sovereign Pontiff committing his Church to this 
position reminds us of the unfortunate reply of a Saxon mis- 
sionary to Radbod, the King of Friesland. The King, with one 
foot in the baptismal font, as a last question, asked the mission- 
ary whether he must think of his ancestors as in heaven or in 
hell. "In hell," was the reply. "Then I shall go with my 
fathers," exclaimed the King, as he drew back and refused the 
Christian rite. Millions of Chinese on the brink of a Christian 
profession have been held back by a similar motive. 

The question, I admit, is one of duty, not of expediency. Yet, 
in view of all our obligations to truth and righteousness, there 
appears to me to be no necessity for placing them in this cruel 
dilemma. The idolatrous elements involved in ancestral wor- 
ship are, as we have seen, excrescences, and not of the essence 
of the system. "\Vhy.not prune them off and retain all that is 
good and beautiful in the institution ? A tablet inscribed with 
a name and a date is in itself a simple memorial not more dan- 
gerous than the urns of ashes which cremationists are supposed 
to preserve in their dwellings, and not half so much so as pict- 
ures and statues : why should the native convert be required to 
surrender or destroy it? The semi-annual visit to the family 
cemetery is a becoming act of respect to the dead : why should 
that be forbidden ? As to offerings of meats and drinks, why 
should they not be replaced by bouquets of flowers, or the peri- 
odical planting of flower-seeds and flowering shrubs ? Even the 
act of prostration before the tomb or tablet can hardly be re- 
garded as objectionable in a country where children are required 
to kneel before their living parents. 

That which is really objectionable is geomancy and the invo- 


cation of departed spirits. The simplest ideas of science are 
sufficient to dispel the One form of superstition, and a very 
small amount of religious knowledge supplies an effectual anti- 
dote to the other. The worship of ancestors would thus be re- 
stored to the state in which Confucius left it, or rather to that 
in which he himself practised it as merely a system of commem- 
orative rites. 

"Whatever party takes this position will have an immense ad- 
vantage in the competition for proselytes. Missionaries may 
never accept it. They may even, in combating ancestral wor- 
ship, believe themselves to be like St. Boniface, felling the trees 
that shelter the spirit of idolatry, instead of, as we think, clear- 
ing away those forests that are necessary to the fertility and 
beauty of the land. But the native Church cannot be expected 
to follow servilely in the footsteps of its foreign leaders. When 
the higher classes come to embrace Christianity in great num- 
bers, they will readily leave behind them their Buddhism and 
their Taoism ; but the worship of ancestors they will never con- 
sent to abandon, though they may submit to some such, modifi- 
cations as those which I have endeavored to indicate. 



( Viewed as a Missionary Agency.) 

IN those good old days when refZ&y wit and prompt expres- 
sion were more prized in the pulpit than they are in this age of 
written sermons, it was the custom in the Kirk of Scotland to 
serve a candidate with a text just as he rose to deliver his trial 
discourse. On one such occasion, the youthful preacher received 
instead of a text only a slip of blank paper. Holding it up be- 
fore his audience, and turning it slowly round, he exclaimed, 
" On this side there is nothing, and on that side there is nothing, 
and out of nothing God made the world.' 1 ' 1 

In undertaking to discuss the subject of " secular literature "f 
assigned me by the committee, I find myself in a similar pre- 
dicament. While there is no room to complain that there is 
nothing on this side and nothing on that, the subject is so pol- 
yhedral that the writer is altogether in doubt as to the aspects 
under which he is expected to treat it. 

Is it native literature or foreign literature ? Is it extant, or 
only existing in the possibilities of the future ? These and many 
more such questions are suggested by the studied ambiguity of 
the proposed theme a theme which involves no proposition ; 
a subject without a predicate ! I run no risk, however, in con- 

* This paper was written, by request, for the General Conference of Mis- 
sionaries which met in Shanghai, May, 1877. It is reproduced here, not to 
show the present state of the Chinese, but to indicate what remains to be 
done to impart a new stimulus to their intellectual life. 

f The subject as given was expressed in the two words that stand at the 
head of this page. 


eluding that the subject was intended to be of a practical character, 
and to have a bearing on the great question of missionary duty. 

This, then, is the sense in which I shall understand it viz., as 
affording a basis for the inquiry, To what extent is it desirable 
that missionaries should endeavor to contribute to the creation 
of a new secular literature for China ? 

The literature in question is, I would premise, understood to 
be a Christian literature, notwithstanding the descriptive prefix 
" Secular." Not professedly religious, it is, or ought to be, leav- 
ened with religion, as the atmosphere is impregnated with ozone ; 
not as an extraneous element, but as something evolved from 
itself, endowed with a higher energy, and enhancing its salutary 

So far, however, is the secular literature of the most favored 
nations of Christendom from realizing our ideal in point of pu- 
rity and spiritual elevation that we sometimes doubt the pro- 
priety of calling it Christian. But bring it into comparison with 
the literature of a heathen people, and mark how it glows with 
the warm light of a higher world. 

Whence, for example, come those noble sentiments which per- 
vade every branch of our literature law, philosophy, poetry, fic- 
tion, and history ? The sentiment of the brotherhood of man- 
kind, so effective in checking oppression and promoting interna- 
tional justice whence comes it, but from that Gospel which 
teaches us that " God made of one blood all nations for to dwell 
on all the face of the earth ?" That sense of responsibility which 
extends to the minutest affairs of daily life, and inspires the sub- 
limest achievements of heroism making "duty" a watchword 
in the day of battle whence comes it but from those lessons of 
responsibility to a higher power which constitute the Alpha and 
the Omega of the Christian system ? 

Again, the idea of rights as correlative to obligations, if not 
peculiar to Christianity, belongs at present exclusively to the 
moral and political systems of Christendom. In China the con- 


ception is wanting, and the language contains no word for its 

Finally, wliile self-sacrifice for the good of others is not only 
taught, but beautifully illustrated, in some of the religions of the 
pagan world, it was reserved for Christianity to give it a place 
in the hearts and homes of mankind teaching the humblest of 
them to cherish the spirit and imitate the example of its Divine 
Founder. Such are some of the golden threads which the fingers 
of religion have wrought into the tissue of our Western thought, 
and they sparkle on every page of our standard literature. 

M. Troplong,* a learned jurist of France, has shown how Chris- 
tianity infused itself into the body of Roman law, and thence 
passed into the jurisprudence of Europe. Chateaubriand, f in his 
eloquent pages, points out how it inspires modern art, and fills 
the domain of taste and imagination with new elements of spir- 
itual beauty. 

Christianity has made epic poetry almost exclusively her own, 
inspiring her Dantes, her Miltons, and her Klopstocks to sing of 
spiritual conflicts in loftier strains than those which describe the 
barbarous wars of ancient Greece. Cowper, Wordsworth, and 
Coleridge breathe the very essence of Christianity, and even 
Shakespeare is full of it. No one can fail to perceive that 
though he had " little Latin and less Greek," he was a diligent 
student of the English Bible. What a precious little Gospel he 
compresses into three lines when he speaks of 

" Those holy fields, 

Over whose acres walked those blessed feet 
Which fourteen hundred years ago were nailed, 
For our advantage, on the bitter cross 1" 

Goethe's Faust deals with the great problem of human proba- 
tion ; and though he drew his subject from mediaeval legends, 
those legends were founded on the allegory of the Book of Job. 

* du Christianisme sur le Droit Civil des Romains. 
\ Genie du Christianisme. 


The latest poem but one from the pen of England's laureate is 
religious, or, more properly, theological ; and one of the latest 
compositions of the laureate of the other hemisphere, the Divine 
Tragedy, is merely a versification of the Gospel history. 

Of the poet it may be said that, laboring under the influence 
of a kind of inspiration, "Himself from God he cannot free"* 
he must be religious or irreligious ; and, according to the cir- 
cumstances of his age, pagan or Christian. But there is no such 
necessity laid on the historian, who may, if he choose, marshal 
his facts in the spirit of the positive philosophy, and leave the 
nations to work out their own destiny, independent of what is 
called providential control. Yet, in general, writers of this class 
have not failed to recognize the hand of God in the rise and fall 
of empires ; Cicero makes his doubting Academic admit its pres- 
ence in great affairs of national moment, though he denies its ex- 
tension to the interests of the individual man. Let two of the 
most eminent speak for their order. 

Says M. Guizot,f " In the very nature of human reason, and 
of the relations of the human race to it, lies the idea of the des- 
tination of the race for a supermundane and eternal sphere. . . . 
It is equally clear that humanity can realize the idea of social 
perfection only as a rational society by the union and brother- 
hood of the human family. How far it may be the intention 
of Divine Providence that the human race shall realize this per- 
fection, it may be impossible to determine. Certain it is that it 
can never be brought about by any mere political institutions : 
only Christianity can effect this universal brotherhood of nations, 
and bind the human family together in a rational, i.e. a free, 
moral society." 

Says Mr. Bancroft,J " That God rules in the affairs of men is 
as certain as any truth of physical science. . . . 

* Emerson. f History of Civilization. 

J Discourse on the Character of President Lincoln. 


"Eternal wisdom marshals the great procession *of the nations, 
working in patient continuity through the ages ; never halting 
and never abrupt ; encompassing all events in its oversight ; and 
even effecting its will, though mortals may slumber in apathy or 
oppose with madness." 

So much for history. Time would fail me to indicate how 
completely the entire body of our higher philosophy is pervaded 
with a spirit orf religion, which in general, if not always, is dis- 
tinctively Christian. 

"Waiving, then, further illustrations, such is the religious char- 
acter even of the secular literature of Christendom a literature 
which, with all its imperfections, is the fitting expression of the 
intellectual life of a Christian people; and such is my idea of 
the new secular literature which we desire to see springing up 
on the soil of China. 

If the missionary can do aught to bring about this result, who 
will dare to assert that his efforts are misdirected ? The mis- 
sionary, it will be said, is already laboring to bring about this re- 
sult, and that in the most effective way. 

This I admit in a general sense. I would not have him, like 
one of the early fathers, expend his energies in the vain attempt 
to produce Christian plays which shall supersede the profane 
productions of the pagan stage. Nor would I have him, under 
the impulse of religious zeal, intrude into certain other depart- 
ments to which the taste of a native and native genius dre the 
only passports. Works of that kind nascuntur, nonfiunt will 
spring up spontaneously when the soil is once prepared. Co- 
lumba and Augustine were predecessors of Shakespeare and Mil- 
ton ; and in this country, whatever works most efficiently for 
the implanting of Christian thought in the heart of the nation 
will also lead most speedily to the growth of a secular literature* 
which shall be Christian in its essential characteristics. 

.But are there not other departments of literary effort within 
the general field described as secular from which the missionary 


is not debarred by any sucli irreversible decree of nature, and 
which he is impelled to enter in order to insure the success of his 
leading enterprise ? 

That there are such will, no doubt, be conceded by the great 
majority of the members of this Conference; and what they 
are I shall endeavor to indicate in the sequel of this paper. In 
the meantime, permit me to dispose of a familiar objection, 
which grows out of a narrow interpretation of the great com- 
mission, and fortifies itself by the citation of honored but inap- 
propriate examples. The missionary, it is said, is sent forth to 
preach, and, like St. Paul, he should know nothing beyond the 
special subject of his mission. 

Those who urge this objection appear to forget that, in the 
lapse of ages, the relations of the Church to the heathen world 
have undergone a complete revolution. In the days of St. Paul, 
the followers of Christ were few and despised; now they are 
numerous and powerful, and hold in their hands the destinies 
of the nations of the earth. Then they were less cultivated 
than those to whom they were sent, and had but one book to 
give to mankind. Now it is they who stand upon the higher 
plane and have possession of the keys of knowledge. They are 
no longer armed with the power of miracles ; but are they not 
clothed with other powers which may be made to serve as an 
ample substitute in the way of attesting and enforcing their 
principal message ? 

When they go to the savage tribes of Africa, or to -the still 
ruder savages of the southern seas, their superiority is at once 

The unlettered native worships as a fetich the chips of wood 
which the missionary has taught to talk by means of mysterious 
marks which he has traced on their surface. They are welcomed 
as the apostles of civilization, and no narrow prejudice has ever 
been permitted to deter them from instructing the natives. in 
the arts- of civilized life. 


In this country we meet with a very different reception ; we 
come to a people who were highly civilized before our forefa- 
thers had emerged from barbarism a people who still assume, 
tacitly or openly, that they occupy a position of unquestionable 
superiority. Ilere, therefore, more than anywhere in the world, 
do we need to avail ourselves of every circumstance that may 
help to turn the scale. We are required to prove our commis- 
sion to teach men spiritual things by showing our ability to in- 
struct them in worldly matters. 

It was observed by one of the Jesuit fathers, a long time ago, 
that the Chinese were so advanced in culture that there was noth- 
ing in which Europeans could claim pre-eminence save the 
knowledge of mathematical science and the verities of the 
Christian faith. 

The advantages derived from these two sources have been ren- 
dered all the more conspicuous by the marvellous progress of 
the last three centuries ; and where, I ask, is the necessity of re- 
nouncing those of the one class in order to communicate the 
other ? Who can doubt that the melancholy fact that the Nes- 
torian missions appear to have sunk like a stone in the mighty 
waters, without leaving so much as a ripple on the surface, was 
mainly owing to the circumstance that their civilization was of 
a lower type than that of China ? On the other hand, is it not 
equally evident that it is to the learned labors of her early mis- 
sionaries, more than to anything else, that the Catholic Church 
owes her strong foothold in this Empire ? The lesson is obvi- 
ous. In the work of converting the nations, religion and science 
are, or ought to be, a wedded pair, each lending its aid to the 
other ; and what God hath joined together, let man not put 

This brings me to point out those departments in which it .is 
not only possible, but almost imperative, for the missionary to 
make contributions to the secular literature of the land we live 
in. They may be considered under three general heads : 


1. History and geography. 

2. The mathematical and physical sciences. 

3. The mental and social sciences. 

Books of the first class, however secular in character, may 
fairly be regarded as an indispensable preparation for the propa- 
gation of the Gospel. For every fact, to borrow the language 
of geometrical analysis, requires the aid of two co-ordinates to 
determine its position. These are time and place, history and 
geography ; and without these, the statements of the Gospel 
narrative would be as vague as objects floating in space, which 
the eye is unable to refer to any definite distance, or compare 
with any certain standard of magnitude. 

So generally is this recognized that missionaries have, in fact, 
made sundry efforts to supply the desiderata in both divisions. 
A sketch of general or universal history was prepared by the 
late Dr. Gutzlaff ; but it was left in such a meagre, imperfect 
state that I am glad to be able to announce that two distinct 
enterprises in the same direction are now in progress one based 
on the work of the German professor Weber, the other on that 
of the English historian Tytler. 

Of particular histories, I may mention that of the United 
States, by Dr. Bridgman ; and a history of England, by a living 
missionary.* Both, if I mistake not, have enjoyed the honor- 
able distinction of being reprinted jn Japan. But what are 
these among so many ? There are at least a score of other na- 
tions, ancient and modern, who have acted, or are now acting, 
conspicuous parts in the great march of humanity ; and all these 
are waiting for the muse of history to inspire some competent 
pen to make them known to the Chinese, and to emphasize the 
providential lesson of their national life. 

In geography, the first place is due to the excellent work of 
the late Seu Keyu, a former governor of Fuhkien. Combining 

* The Rev. "W. Muirhead, London Miss. Soc. 


historical "notices with topographical description, and full of val- 
uable information expressed in the choicest style (though equal- 
ly replete with minor blemishes), it produced a marked sensation 
on its first appearance, nearly thirty years ago ; and its influence 
has gone on extending to the present hour. Its liberal and ap- 
preciative views of foreign countries are reputed to have occa- 
sioned the dismissal of the author from the public service ; and 
the same qualities caused him to be recalled after a retirement 
of eighteen years, and made a member of the Board of Foreign 
Affairs, by whose authority an edition of his book was pub- 
lished in Peking. . . 

My apology for mentioning this work, if it required any, 
would be found in the fact that in his introduction the author 
refers in terms of high commendation to the Rev. Dr. Abeel, as 
the chief source of his information. Does any one imagine 
that, fervent and devoted as he was, the direct evangelistic labors 
of the lamented missionary were ever half as effective as those 
spare half -hours which he placed at the service of the inquisitive 
mandarin ? 

Three smaller works on this subject have been prepared and 
published by missionaries, not to mention several in provincial 
dialects. Of these, two * are composed in such a style as to 
commend themselves to general readers; and they have both 
enjoyed a wide popularity. 

But no one has thus far so hit the mark as to matter and 
manner as to supersede the necessity of further efforts in the 
same line. The sketching of physical characteristics is compar- 
atively easy ; but the delineation of the varying phases of civ- 
ilization is a task of great delicacy, and one which, if well per- 
formed, cannot fail to exert a profound influence. 

In astronomy and mathematics, all honor is due to the labors 
of the Catholic missionaries. But how much remains to be 

* By the Rev. W. Muirhead and the Rev. R. Q, Way. 


done may be inferred from the fact, for which those pioneers 
of Western science are partly answerable, that in the official 
text-books the earth still occupies the centre of the universe ; 
and that other fact, for which they are not responsible, that the 
Imperial calendar continues to be encumbered by the rubbish of 
mediaeval astrology ._ 

For the only considerable work on what we may call modern 
astronomy, the Chinese are indebted to a Protestant missionary,* 
who has also given them a pretty full course of modern mathe- 
matics, including the higher branches of analytical geometry 
and the infinitesimal calculus. 

The worthy author of these excellent translations would be 
the last to claim a monopoly of the field ; and to me it appears 
that there is still room for a double series of works on the same 
subjects one of them simple and popular, the other more com- 
plete and extensive. 

When the literary corporation becomes "inoculated with a love 
of exact science, the most salutary reforms may be anticipated 
in the general character of the national education ; but not until 
the new astronomy succeeds in expelling the earth from the 
place which belongs to the sun can we expect their earth-born 
pantheon to yield the throne to the rightful Sovereign of the 

As to the other branches of physical science new to the West- 
ern world, it is but a few years since their very names were un- 
known to the Chinese. Yet already are there indications that 
China is swinging to the tide a tide which no anchor of Orien- 
tal conservatism will ever be able to resist. On these subjects 
we cannot have too many books, provided they are good ones. 

It is to the diffusion of just ideas as to the laws of nature by 
. means of scientific publications that we are to look for the abo- 
lition of that degrading system of geomancy which never fails 

* A. Wylie, Esq., London Miss. Soc. 


to throw its shapeless form athwart the pathway of material 

It is from the same influence, and from that only, that we are 
to expect the extinction of popular panics and judicial execu- 
tions connected with a superstitious belief in witchcraft. 

The sad tragedy of Tientsin witnesses to the danger of the 
one ; and at least four heads one that of a woman which have 
fallen under the axe of the executioner within the last four 
years testify to the disgrace of the other. 

It was science, and not religion, that broke the power of such 
delusions among our own people ; rendering impossible a repeti- 
tion of the horrible scenes in which good men like Sir Matthew 
Hale and Dr. Cotton Mather earned an unenviable notoriety. 
In this connection I cannot forbear paying a passing tribute to 
those periodicals, monthlies and dailies, scientific and popular, 
which are now so actively employed in disseminating the helle- 
bore required by the national mind. 

Medical science, in particular, strikes at the roots of a host of 
superstitious errors ; and it is not easy to overestimate the value 
of the books which our medical missionaries, in the midst of 
their philanthropic labors, have found time to prepare and publish. 

As yet, however, they are only on the threshold of their work. 
Their mission will not be complete until the present generation 
of unlicensed empirics shall be superseded by a native faculty 
well versed in all the arts and sciences that belong to their pro- 

The group of sciences which I have comprehended under the 
general designation of mental and social occupies a border-land 
so close on the confines of religion that one is surprised to find 
it almost as untrodden as the arctic snows. Practical ethics have, 
of course, not been neglected ; and certain metaphysical specula- 
tions have alSo come forward in connection with topics of the- 
ology ; but the scientific treatment of any one in the whole circle 
is still a desideratum. 


Indeed, native scholars are apt to insinuate that the whole 
domain of what they csdl-singli is in our Western literature a 
barren waste; a suspicion which, while it flatters their own pride, 
enables them to treat with patronizing disdain a style of learning 
whose highest fruit they consider to be the production of a cun- 
ning artificer. 

In the face of such a charge, what is more natural than that 
we should feel a desire to vindicate the credit of our Christian 
culture to show the sceptical followers of Chufutse that we are 
familiar with subtleties of ^bought which their language, with all 
its boasted refinement, is powerless to express? 

But there is a higher motive for taking up the gage ; I mean 
the influence exercised by writers in this department over the 
weightier interests of human society. The cloudy heights of 
speculation may, indeed, appear to be cold and barren ; yet from 
them issue streams which sweep over the lower plains of human 
life like a desolating flood, or, like the Nile, diffuse beauty and 

In the ancient world, the triumph of Epicurus was fatal to the 
liberties of Rome. In modern France, the guillotine reaped the 
harvest sown by the hands of an atheistic philosophy. After the 
restoration of the Stuarts, the materialism of Hobbes strengthened 
the tyranny and encouraged the excesses of a dissolute court ; 
nor can it be doubted that the Scotch philosophy of common- 
sense contributed much to impart that intelligent sobriety which 
characterizes the British mind. 

It will be a sad day for Germany when men of the stamp of 
Schopenhauer are accepted as masters in her schools of philos- 

The Sung philosophers have made a far more complete con- 
quest of China than the Encyclopedists did of France the 
speculative atheism which, after the lapse of a thousand years, 
still steeps the educated mind of this country being mainly de- 
rived from that source. 


Books on these subjects, if well composed, would command 
the attention of, the leading classes in the Empire. A good 
treatise on the analysis of the mental powers would call them 
away from groping among the mists of ontology, and teach them 
to interrogate the facts of their own consciousness ; astonishing 
them not less by revealing to them their hitherto unsuspected 
mental anatomy than works of another class do by unveiling 
the structure of their physical frame. The grand corollary 
would be the nature and destiny of the human soul. A treatise 
on formal logic would scarcely prove less fascinating by its nov- 
elty, or less revolutionary in its effect? On this point fas cst ab 
hoste, etc. The late Mr. J. S. Mill informs us that his father 
warned him against making any open attack on the Christian 
faith, as likely to prove abortive and to recoil upon his own 
head ; but suggested that a successful assault might be made . 
from the masked batteries of a work on logic. 

With Christianity this method has been tried, and without 
any serious result ; but a missile which rebounds harmless from 
the plates of an iron-clad will crush through the timbers of a 
wooden junk. It is certain that the medley of incompatible 
opinions which make up the creed of a Confucianist, however 
formidable when approached from without, could not long hold 
out against the force of logical principles applied from within. 
In a word, with the learned classes, anything which tends to 
show them how to investigate their own mental processes, to 
weigh arguments and try evidence, cannot fail to contribute 
powerfully to their abandonment of error and adoption of truth. 

In the field of political economy, soil was broken some fivc- 
and-twenty years ago by the publication of a small brochure 
under the auspices of the Morrison school.* Thus far this effort 
has not been followed up ; and yet a weighty writer in the 
Fortnightly Review, referring to the late centennial of the 

* By the Rev. S. R. Brown, D.D., late of Japan. 


"Wealth of Nations, does not hesitate to affirm that " political 
economy has contributed to the wealth of England a hundred- 
fold more than any other science." 

Dr. Chalmers, though the first preacher in Europe, did not 
disdain to write a hook on political economy ; and in America, 
Dr. "VVayland, alike eminent as a scholar and a pulpit orator, also 
prepared a text-book on the same subject. A science which so 
conspicuously improves the temporal well-being of all classes 
must of necessity promote their higher interests. 

While on this branch of the subject, I cannot refrain from 
expressing the pleasure I have had in perusing two books from 
the pen of a German missionary one of them a view of the 
educational institutions of Germany, the other a discourse on 
civilization. Both are calculated to make a decided impression 
on native scholars, though the latter may perhaps awaken a feel- 
ing of resentment by the severity of its criticism, appearing to 
assert superiority without proving it; while the former proves it 
without advancing any such irritating claim. 

Not only is it desirable that the learned classes of China 
should be made acquainted with the educational institutions of 
the West, it is of equal importance that they should obtain some 
idea of the nature and extent of our polite literature. The only 
satisfactory way for them to arrive at this is by learning to read 
it. Yot if the missionary, in the intervals of more serious work, 
would now and then translate a poem like Pope's Essay on Man, 
or a prose composition like some of the best of Johnson or Ad- 
dison, the effect could hardly be otherwise than happy especially 
on the translator. 

In conclusion, we have taken a kind of balloon voyage over a 
wide region, in the course of which we have seen how the land 
lies without pausing to map down its minute features. We 
have given no names of living authors, and no catalogue of 
books; our sole object being to ascertain in what departments 
of secular authorship a missionary may engage with most ad- 


vantage to the great cause. Already is the triumph of that cause 
foreshadowed by what a secular writer describes as a " tendency 
towards homogeneity of civilization." ^ 

Japan has openly adopted the Western type ; and China, 
without committing herself, is slowly moving in the same direc- 
tion. The growing demand for books on scientific subjects is 
but one among many signs which point to an approaching intel- 
lectual revolution. 

This demand, it is true, the government is endeavoring to 
supply at its own expense ; and many excellent works are pro- 
duced by the translators whom it employs. But there is, as we 
have shown, still room for the missionary, and a call for his 
labors in this department which scarcely anything but conscious 
inability would justify him in declining. He can hardly stop 
for a night in a city of the interior without some of its best in- 
habitants applying to him for books of science and for instruc- 
tion on scientific subjects. Is it wise to turn a deaf ear to such 
appeals for intellectual food? Can the missionary afford to do 
so without losing prestige as a representative of liberal culture ? 
His preaching will lose nothing in its power by the consecration 
of a portion of his time to such scientific and literary labors as 
lie outside of the beaten path of pulpit duty. 

In view of the intellectual movement now beginning to show 
itself alf over this Empire, I would urge upon missionary societies 

* The phrase in the text is due, I believe, to a writer in the Edinburgh 
Review. A similar expression occurs in the 7th article of the original draft 
of what is known as the Burlingame Treaty, drawn up, not as generally sup- 
posed by Mr. Burlingame, but by the late Secretary Seward a fact which I 
had from Mr. Seward himself. The article was rejected by China, because 
she was not prepared to commit herself to a change of coinage. It com- 
mences thus : " The United States and the Emperor of China, recognizing 
in the present progress of nations a favorable tendency towards unity of 
civilization, and regarding a unit of money, etc." Vide Mayers' Treaties, 
p. 95. 


to send into this field none but their best men, and upon mis- 
sionaries now on the ground to endeavor to rise to the occasion ; 
to take for their models such men as Chalmers and Way land, 
and to emulate them in the breadth of their views as well as in 
the fervor of their .devotion. 



FEBRUARY, 1866.* 

AN intimate relation must always subsist between the civil 
capital and the commercial metropolis of a great empire. Not 
closer, indeed, is the connection between the throbbing heart and 
the scheming brain ; and, however remote their geographical situ- 
ation, the trade that centres in the one is sure to suggest, and in 
the end control, the legislation which emanates from the other; 
Avhile political influences cannot fail, in their turn, to react on the 
interests of commerce. 

The subject, therefore, on which I am called to address you is 
one that may justly challenge a deeper interest than that which 
is given to some unpractical abstraction, or even to the most en- 
tertaining narrative of scenery and manners. Not altogether 
devoid of matter for the studies of the antiquarian and the 
physical geographer, its chief interest lies in developing a new 
relation between Shanghai and Peking, and I shall deem my 
forty days of lonely travel well employed if they shall contribute 
in any degree to pave a pathway for the locomotive or open a 
channel for the steamer. 

What I have to lay before you in relation to my journey may 
be comprised under the following topics : 

* This paper wa3 prepared for the North China Branch of the Royal 
Asiatic Society, and, after being read at a special meeting on the 29th of 
March, 1866, was published in the Society's Journal. It is reproduced here 
chiefly on account of the information it contains concerning the Jews in 
China a subject not out of keeping with the .foregoing notices of various 
systems of religion and philosophy. 


1st. The Imperial road leading south from Peking. 

2d. The present condition of the Jews in Honan. 

3d. The navigation of the Yellow River. 

4th. The central section of the Grand Canal. 

I. As to the importance of the road referred to, the idea the 
Chinese entertain of it is expressed by an inscription at the head 
of a superb bridge near the city of Choh-chau "/U |3 $ 71/1, 
" A Thoroughfare for a Myriad Nations." It is crossed by the 
envoys of several feudal states as they bear tribute to the Em- 
peror; and we saw, as illustrating the inscription, shortly after 
it had passed the bridge, the Lewchewan embassy approaching 
the capital in twelve carts adorned with yellow flags, on which 
were inscribed the characters jlClii, " tribute -bearers." The 
ministers of our Western countries have never crossed that 
bridge, but (dare we allude to it, in their present altered position ?) 
some of them have actually borne those yellow banners ! 

Not far from Pau-ting-fu, seat of the provincial government 
of Chihli, and about a hundred miles to the south of Peking, the 
road that leads to the maritime provinces branches off from that 
which conducts to the heart of the Empire. The former bears 
to the southeast until it strikes the Grand Canal in the vicinity 
of Tientsin in Shantung ; the latter pursues its southward course 
for more than three hundred miles farther until it crosses the 
Yellow River at K'ai-fung-fu. This is the road over which I 
passed, as a main object of my journey was to make inquiries 
respecting the Jews in Honan. 

The distance from Peking to Kai-fung is 1400 li, or about 
470 English miles, through the greater part of which the high- 
road, as it winds through the plain, presents to the distant view 
the aspect of a river with wooded banks a row of trees, mostly 
willow and aspen, being planted on either side to supply shade 
to travellers and timber for the repair of bridges. Its course is 
also traced by other landmarks, which, if less graceful, are more 
striking to the eye of a foreign observer. I allude to the police- 


stations and watch-towers that line the road at intervals of from 
three to five li. 

The police-stations, though presenting in conspicuous charac- 
ters a list of the force, together with an official statement of 
their duty to " protect the traveller and arrest robbers," were 
nearly all deserted. The tranquillity of the country, however, 
is not such as to justify this official negligence ; for, not to ad- 
duce other evidence, we were informed that at one point of the 
road several carts had, not long before, been carried away by rob- 
bers. The watch-towers, built of brick and resembling the bastions 
of a city wall, are intended not only for observation, but defence. 
In front of each are several little structures of brick, surmounted 
by a cone or semi-oval elevation covered with lime and resem- 
bling a huge egg. These are always five in number, for what 
reason I am unable to say, unless it is because the Chinese reckon 
five colors in the rainbow and five virtues in their moral code. 
They are the depositories of fuel, which is supposed to be ready 
for the lighting of signal-fires on the occurrence of any sudden 
alarm. It is not, however, the flame, but the smoke, that they 
use for signals ; and the substance which they profess to employ 
for this purpose as possessing certain remarkable properties is 
Jg ^, "excrement of wolves." Both towers and beacons are 
alike falling to decay, and the impression made by their neglect- 
ed ruins is that the day is not far distant when the telegraph of 
wolf's dung will be superseded by the electric wire. 

Through this portion of my journey, the eye of the traveller 
rests on but one natural object that can truly be denominated 
picturesque this is the long range of Si-shan hills which, meet- 
ing him outside the gates of Peking, runs parallel to his course 
for nearly four hundred miles. The highest peaks crowned with* 
snow and glittering like a thousand gilded domes, and their 
rugged sides resembling the wave-worn shore of a long-retired 
ocean, they form at first a pleasing contrast to the unvarying 
level of the subjacent plain. But when the traveller has looked 



out on what seems to be the same landscape each morning for 
half a month, he grows weary of their uniformity, and seeks re- 
lief in speculating on the varied wealth that lies concealed be- 
neath their monotonous surface. 

Silver they certainly do contain, but the mines of Shan-si, 
whether from defective engineering or other causes, are no longer 

O O ' O 

remunerative, and have ceased to be worked. Of gold we have 
no notice; but the "black diamond" is found there in rich 
deposits, and along with it an abundance of iron, the most 
precious of all metals. Iron-foundries are in operation in at 
least two districts one in Peking and the other in Hoh-lu-hien, 
)| fife* about two hundred miles to the south. As we passed 
the latter place, we met a vast number of carts conveying its 
productions to all parts of the province. These ranged from 
kitchen utensils up to salt-boilers five or six feet in diameter. 
They appeared to be well executed, and the metal of good 

Of coal-deposits there seems to be a continuous chain, extend- 
ing from the verge of the Mongolian plateau to the banks of the 
Yellow River. In the vicinity of Peking there are beds of both 
bituminous and anthracite, but at other points I met only with 
the latter variety. With the exception of places near the 
Hwang-ho, it is transported mainly by land carriage near Pe- 
king, on the backs of camels; farther south, on mules, donkeys, 
and wheelbarrows. The consequence is that, while at some 
points it is cheap and abundant, at intermediate places it be- 
comes so costly that the people are obliged to burn reeds and 
millet-stalks, or glean a scanty supply of fuel from their stubble- 

Here, then, on the line of this Imperial road, and along the 
base of this range of hills, is the track for the first grand trunk 
railway in the Chinese Empire. Not only would it find close at 
hand iron for its rails and coal for its motive power, but the 
carriage of coal and iron to all the cities on the line, including 


Peking and Tientsin, would constitute one of tlie richest sources 
of its revenue. With Ta-ku for one terminus and K'ai-fung-fu 
for the other, it would pass through the capital of the Empire, 
through two provincial capitals, six fu cities, and an indefinite 
number of choivs and hiens* 

Between these places the amount of local travel is immense. 
At some points I estimated the number of vehicles passing in 
the course of a day at two hundred, employing from four to five 
hundred mules ; while caravans of pilgrims mounted on camels 
were flocking to the shrines of Shan-si, as the Hindoos do to 
those of Benares. The supposed railway would soon supersede 
these slow and painful modes of locomotion. Troops would be 
despatched by rail instead of marching by easy stages ; and 
scholars attending the metropolitan examinations, and manda- 
rins with their large retinues, always good customers, would 
cease to creep through the Grand Canal, or jolt for months in. 
lumbering carts, and learn to appreciate our locomotives as they 
do our steamers. 

My> friend, Mr. Morrison, late her Majesty's Consul at Che-foo, 
proposes the extension of the road to Hankow, and is perhaps at 
this very moment engaged in exploring the route in that direc- 

But why indulge in dreams of railways into the heart of the 
Empire, when the Chinese government refuses to tolerate a tele- 
graphic line to the mouth of the Shanghai River ? f 

They may not, I confess, be destined to a speedy realization, 
but to me they are worth all they cost, as a relief from thoughts 
of present discomfort What better preparation for such dream- 
ing than to arrive at a miserable inn with sore feet and aching 
head, after driving from five in the morning till nine at night to 

* Cities of the third and fourth orders. 

f A telegraph between those points is now in operation, and a railway 
was not long ago opened in the same place by foreign enterprise ; but official 
jealousy soon put an end to its existence. 


make out the distance of forty miles ? You throw yourself down 
in .an apartment without floor and without windows; without a 
fire, as I found in many places, to mitigate the rigor of the sea- 
son, and without a softer spot than a pavement of brick on which 
to rest your weary limbs. Weird fancy waves over you her crea- 
tive wand, and old memories mingle with present realities. In- 
stead of the shout of your mule-driver and the rumbling of his 
cart-wheels, you hear the shriek of the steam-whistle, ths rush of 
the train, and the click of the telegraph. The dingy hovel rises 
into a stately station-house its carpeted saloons thronged by 
people of all the provinces, and the ticket-office besieged by an 
eager crowd. You press to the front, hear your money clink on 
the counter, and are just clutching the coupon that promises you 
a passage over the rails to Hankow at the rate of 1000 It per 
diem, when the crowing cock awakes you to another day of toil 
and pain. 

II. The existence in Ilonan of a colony of Jews, who profess 
to have entered China as early as the dynasty of Han, has long 
been known to the Christian world. They were discovered by 
Father Ricci in the seventeenth century, and full inquiries con- 
cerning their usages and history subsequently made by Jesuit mis- 
sionaries who resided at K'ai-fung-fu.* In 1850 a deputation of 
native Christians was sent among them by the Bishop of Victoria 
and the late Dr. Medhurst. Two of the Jews were induced to 
come to Shanghai, and some of their Hebrew manuscripts were 
obtained ; but up to the date of my journey, for more than a cen- 
tury and a half, they had not, so far as we are informed, been 
visited by any European. It became, therefore, a matter of 
interest to ascertain their present condition ; and this, as I 

* There is reason to believe that in earlier ages there were many other 
congregations of Jews located in different parts of China. A synagogue at 
Ningpo, now extinct, formerly contributed one or more copies of the Law 
to their brethren in Honan ; and Chinese writers speak of a sect called 
jij & , supposed to be Jews. 


have remarked, was the chief consideration that induced me to 
make K'ai-fung-fu a point in the course of my inland travels. 
What others may have published I shall not repeat, but as con- 
cisely as possible lay before you a resume of my own observa- 

Arriving in their city on the 17th of February, I inquired for 
the Jewish synagogue, but, getting no satisfactory answer from 
the pagan innkeeper, I went for information to one of the Ma- 
hometan mosques, of which there are six within the walls. I 
was well received by the mufti, and the advent of a stranger 
from the West, who was reported to be a worshipper of the 
True Lord, drew together a large concourse of the faithful. At 
the request of the mufti, holding a New Testament in my hand, 
I addressed them in relation to the contents of the Holy Book 
of Jesus Christ, whose name he pronounced with reverence as 
that of one of the most illustrious of their prophets. The Jews 
he denounced as Kafirs (unbelievers), and evinced no very poig- 
nant sorrow when he informed me that their synagogue had 
come to desolation. It was, he assured me, utterly demolished, 
and the people who had worshipped there were impoverished and 
scattered abroad. " Then," said I, " I will go and see the spot 
on which it stood ;" and, directing my bearers to proceed to the 
place indicated by the mufti, I passed through streets crowded 
with curious spectators to an open square, in the centre of which 
there stood a solitary stone. 

On one side was an inscription commemorating the erection 
of the synagogue in the period Lung-lung, of the Sung dynasty, 
about A.D. 1183, and on the other a record of its rebuilding in 
the reign of Hung-che, of the Ming dynasty ; but to my eye it 
uttered a sadder tale not of building and rebuilding, but of de- 
cay and ruin. It was inscribed with Ichabod " The glory is de- 
parted." Standing on the pedestal, and resting my right hand 
on the head of that stone, which was to be a silent witness of 
the truths I was about to utter, I explained to the expectant 


multitude my reasons for " taking pleasure in the stones of 
Israel and favoring the dust thereof." * 

" Are there among you any of the family of Israel ?" I in- 
quired. " I am one," responded a young man, whose face cor- 
roborated his assertion ; and then another and another stepped 
forth, until I saw before me representatives of six out of the 
seven families into which the colony is divided. There, on that 
melancholy spot where the very foundations of the synagogue 
had been torn from the ground, and there no longer remained 
one stone upon another, they confessed with shame and grief 
that their holy and beautiful house had been demolished by their 
own hands. It had, they said, for a long time been in a ruinous 
condition. They had no money to make repairs ; they had lost 
all knowledge of the sacred tongue ; the traditions of the fathers 
were no longer handed down, and their ritual worship had ceased 
to be observed. In this state of things, they had yielded to the 

* Much interesting information touching the Jews in China may be found 
in the twentieth volume of the Chinese Repository, which contains also the 
report of the deputation above referred to. From this source I borrow an 
extract from the inscription on that monumental stone : " With respect to 
the religion of Israel, we find that our first ancestor was Adam. The 
founder of the religion was Abraham ; then came Moses, who established 
the Law and handed down the sacred writings. During the dynasty of Han 
[B.C. 200-A.D. 226] this religion entered China. In the second year of 
Hiao-tseng, of the Sung dynasty [A.D. 1164], a synagogue was erected in 
K'ai-fung-fu. Those who attempt to represent God by images or pictures 
do but vainly occupy themselves with empty forms. Those who honor and 
obey the sacred writings know the origin of all things ; and eternal reason 
and the sacred writings mutually sustain each other in testifying whence 
men derived their being. All those who profess this religion aim at the 
practice of goodness, and avoid the commission of vice." It is affecting to 
think of this solitary stone continuing to bear its silent testimony after the 
synagogue has fallen, and the voice of its worshippers has ceased to be 
heard. Like that which records the story of the Nestorian missions in 
China, it deserves to be regarded as one of the most precious monuments 
of religious history. 


pressure of necessity, and disposed of the timbers and stones of 
that venerable edifice to obtain relief for their bodily wants. 

In the evening some of them came to my lodgings, bringing 
for my inspection a copy of the Law inscribed on a roll of parch- 
ment, without the points, and in a style of manuscript which I 
was unable to make out, though I had told them rather impru- 
dently that I was acquainted with the language of their sacred 
books.* The next day, the Christian Sabbath, they repeated 
their visit, listening respectfully to what I had to say concerning 
the Law and the Gospel, and answering as far as they were able 
rny inquiries as to their past history and present state. 

Two of them appeared in official costume, one wearing a gilt 
and the other a crystal button ; but, far from sustaining the 
character of this people for thrift and worldly prosperity, they 
number among them none that are rich and but few who are 
honorable. Some, indeed, true to their hereditary instincts, are 
employed in a small way in banking establishments (the first 
man I met was a money-changer) ; others keep fruit-stores and 
cake-shops, drive a business in old clothes, or pursue various 
handicrafts, while a few find employment in military service. 
The prevalence of rebellion in the central provinces for the last 
thirteen years has told sadly on the prosperity of K'ai-fung-fu, 
and the Jews have, not unlikely owing to the nature of their 
occupations, been the greatest sufferers. 

Their number they estimated, though not very exactly, at from 
three to four hundred. They were unable to trace their tribal 
pedigree, keep no register, and never on any occasion assemble 
together as one congregation. Until recently they had a com- 

* I afterwards obtained from them two rolls of the Law, and after a little 
practice found myself able to read them with sufficient ease ; the chief dif- 
ficulty being the want of the vowel-points. One of these rolls I procured 
for my friend Dr. S.Weils Williams, who presented it to the American Bible 


mon centre in their synagogue, though their liturgical service 
had long been discontinued. But the congregation seems to be 
following the fate of its building. No bond of union remains, 
and they are in danger of being speedily absorbed by Mahom- 
etanism or heathenism. One of them has lately become a priest 
of Buddha, taking for his title pen tau ($. j^), which sig- 
nifies " one who is rooted in the knowledge of the Truth !" The 
large tablet that once adorned the entrance of the synagogue, 
bearing in gilded characters the name Israel ( lj]| ^ ^, E-sz- 
lo-yeh), has been appropriated by one of the Mahometan 
mosques ; and some efforts have been made to draw over the 
people, who differ from the Moslems so little that their heathen 
neighbors have never been able to distinguish them by any other 
circumstance than that of their picking the sinews out of the 
flesh they eat a custom commemorative of Jacob's conflict 
with the angel.* 

One of my visitors was a son of the last of their rabbis, who, 
some thirty or forty years ago, died in the province of Kan-suh. 
With him perished the last vestige of their acquaintance with 
the sacred tongue. Though they still preserve several copies of 
the Law and Prophets, there is not a man among them who can 
read a word of Hebrew ; and not long ago it was seriously pro- 
posed to expose their parchments in the market-place, in hopes 
they might attract the attention of some wandering Jew who 
would be able to restore to them the language of their fathers. 
Since the cessation of their ritual worship, their children all 

* These Jews, in commemoration of the principal land of their sojourn on 
their way to China, formerly called their religion ^ i^JLfc, the " religion 
of India." This name, being in sound, though not in orthography, liable to 
be confounded with that of the Roman Catholics, was later on abandoned 
through fear of being involved in the fierce persecutions which fell on the 
Christians of China. They then called themselves $|f $j Jjfe, Tiao-kin- 
kiao, "sinew -pickers," from a name first given them in derision by their 
heathen neighbors. See Gen. xxii. 32. 


grow up without the seal of the covenant. The young genera- 
tion are uncircumcised, and, as might be expected, they no longer 
take pains to keep their blood pure from intermixture with Gen- 
tiles. One of them confessed to me that his wife was a heathen. 
They remember the names of the Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast 
of Unleavened Bread, and a few other ceremonial rites that were 
still practised by a former generation ; but all such usages are 
now neglected, and the next half-century is not unlikely to put 
a period to their existence as a distinct people. 

Near the margin of the Poyang lake there stands a lofty rock, 
so peculiar and solitary that it is known by the name of the " lit- 
tle orphan." The adjacent shore is low and level, and its kin- 
dred rocks are all on the opposite side of the lake, whence it 
seems to have been torn away by some violent convulsion, and 
planted immovably in the bosom of the waters. Such to me 
appeared that fragment of the Israelitish nation. A rock rent 
from the sides of Mount Zion by some great national catastro- 
phe and projected into the central plain of China, it has stood 
there, while the centuries rolled by, sublime in its antiquity and 
solitude. It is now on the verge of being swallowed up by the 
flood of paganism, and the spectacle is a mournful one. The 
Jews themselves are deeply conscious of their sad situation, and 
the shadow of an inevitable destiny seems to be resting upon 

Poor unhappy people ! as they inquired about the destruction 
of the holy city and the dispersion of their tribes, and referred 
to their own decaying condition, I endeavored to comfort them 
by pointing to Him who is the consolation of Israel. I told 
them the straw had not been trodden underfoot until the ripe 
grain had been gathered to disseminate in other fields. The 
dikes had not been broken down until the time came for pour- 
ing their fertilizing waters over the face of the earth. Chris- 
tian civilization, with all its grand results, had sprung from 
a Jewish root, and the promise to Abraham was already ful- 



filled that " in his seed all the nations of the earth should be 
blessed." * 

III. From K'ai-fung-fu I proceeded in a northeasterly direc- 
tion as far as Kiuh-fu, the Mecca of the Empire, which I reached 
after a circuitous journey of eight days. It is here that the re- 
mains of Confucius have slept for three-and-twenty centuries, 
while his doctrines have swayed the mind of the nation with un- 
diminished authority, and his memory continued as green as 
the cypress grove that shades his sepulchre. I yield to few in 
respect for the character of that illustrious sage, who in the in- 
scriptions that surround his temple is styled j^J jtt j|j =^, " the 
model teacher of all ages," and of whom an emperor of the 
Mings has said with some truth that " but for Confucius, China 
would have remained shrouded in the gloom of a rayless night." 
I shall not, however, pause to describe his mausoleum, because 
it is a leading topic in the paper of my friend Mr. Williamson, 
whose path I crossed at that point, and especially because in 
this part of my journey I met with a more interesting object 
the Yellow River, f 

* Three years after the date of this visit, I addressed a letter to the editor 
of the Jewish Times of New York, embodying the observations here given, 
and proposing the formation of a Jewish mission. The appeal excited some 
discussion among the Jews, but produced no further result, if I except sun- 
dry letters in Hebrew, which I was requested to forward to a people who 
had forgotten the language of their fathers. In my letter to the Jewish 
Times, I said, and now repeat, that "the rebuilding of the synagogue is 
indispensable to give this moribund colony a rallying-point and bond of 
union ; and that without this nothing else can save them from extinction." 

f The mausoleum of the Sage surpasses in grandeur anything I had be- 
fore seen in China. Extending in a series of courts, each enclosed by build- 
ings, along an entire side of the city, it presents the aspect of a little city in 
itself; though ordinarily a deserted one, for it is only on the days of the 
new and full moon that it is visited by worshippers ; and the pilgrims are 
few for a place of such renown. The architecture is like that of most Con- 
fucian temples, but on a larger scale. The whole space is girdled and inter- 
l>y canals without water, which appear to have been excavated solc-ly 


The sepulchre of wisdom would detain us with the hoary 
past ; but the fierce and turbid stream carries our thoughts irre- 
sistibly to the future. Spurning the feeble efforts of the natives, 
it waits to be subdued by the science of Western engineers ; and, 
too rapid for the creeping junk, it has rushed into the sea at a 
more accessible point than its ancient mouth, seemingly for the 
very purpose of inviting our steam -navigation. I crossed it at 
three points once near K'ai-fung, where it still continues in its 
old channel ; once at Ts'ing-kiang-pu, where I walked over dry- 
shod at a place where the junks that carried "Lord Amherst" 
in 1816 offered incense to secure a favorable passage; the third 
point was near Tung-ping-chau, where it was hastening in its 
new course towards the Gulf of Pe-chi-li. 

When I first saw it, I felt disappointed. The huge embank- 
ment, crenellated like the wall of a fortress, winding through 
the plain as the Great Wall winds over the mountains of the 
North, almost as huge a monument of industry, and vastly more 
expensive, excited my expectations. But the river itself lay 
hidden between its banks, waiting for the melting of the winter 
snows to call it forth. Equal in length to the Yang-tsze-kiang, 

for the purpose of furnishing an occasion for the construction of a number 
of pretty bridges. The principal shrine is surrounded by a grove of vener- 
able cedars, one of which is said to have been planted by the hand of Con- 
fucius himself. In another court stands a forest of marble columns all coh- 
ered with inscriptions in praise of the great master. Each of these was 
erected by an Imperial hand ; and dynasties as far back as the beginning 
of the Christian era are here represented; but the legends are in many 
cases altogether obliterated. What is stone or brass to a man who has an 
empire for his monument? Outside of the city, and approached by an ave- 
nue of stately cedars, is seen the spacious cemetery of the family of K'ung. 
Here, beneath a mound which has grown to the dimensions of a small hill, 
sleep the mortal remains of the Great Sage, surrounded by the graves of 
thousands of his posterity. The very grass on this mound is deemed holy, 
and stalks of it put up in small packets are carried to all parts of the coun- 
try to be used in divination. 


it could not at that season boast one twentieth of its volume of 
water. The diagonal pursued by the ferry-boat at K'ai-fung-fu, 
as it is swept down by the current, is estimated in the Chinese 
guide-book at no more than two li ; the actual width opposite 
the ferry-landing is less than half that distance ; and where its 
volume is contracted by a sudden bend, the breadth is reduced, 
if I may trust to ocular measurement, to less than one hundred 
yards. The greatest depth at the Kai-fung crossing at the then 
low stage of water did not exceed six or seven feet, so that the 
ferrymen were able to use their poles all the way from one 
bank to the other. The Peiho below Tientsin makes quite as 
respectable a figure ; and I could hardly have realized that I was 
viewing one of the chief rivers of the East but for the enormous 
embankments, which are so wide apart as to make allowance for 
an expansion of seven miles. At the point w r here I crossed it 
in Shantung, it had gained considerably both in breadth and 
depth, and thence to the sea it is, no doubt, much better adapted 
to navigation by large vessels. 

In this part of its course the number of junks is greatly in- 
creased ; but in Honan there appeared to be little communica- 
tion between distant points. Numerous boats were carrying 
coal to Fung-hien, not far from the capital ; but I was unable to 
discover one that was bound for a more distant port. I was re- 
solved, if I could obtain any kind of craft, to commit myself to 
the current and explore the river through its new channel ; but 
my efforts were in vain. No boat was lying at the crossing ex- 
cept those that belonged to the ferry ; and I was informed that 
all the intercourse between the capitals of Honan and Shantung, 
distant only three hundred miles, and both situated on the bank 
of the river, is carried on by land. Of the truth of this state- 
ment I had ocular evidence in the large number of carts and 
wheelbarrows which we met on the way, a whole fleet of the 
latter with sails spread scudding before the wind, and reminding 
us of what Milton savs of the 


" Barren plains 

Of Sericana, where Chineses drive 
With wind and sails their cany wagons light." 

This deficiency of junk-navigation is to be ascribed in part to 
the rapidity of the current, which makes the downward trip dan- 
gerous and the return voyage next to impossible ; or it may be 
due to obstructions in the river where it breaks away from its 
old channel ; but the best explanation is, no doubt, to be found 
in the unsettled state of the country through which it flows, its 
banks until recently being infested by ferocious hordes of ban- 
ditti. "\Ve have never heard that its upper waters are obstructed 
by any impassable cataract ; and if civil barriers were removed, it 
is not impossible that steamers of light draught might make 
their way to Lan-chau, or even beyond the northwestern bounda- 
ries of China proper; traversing en route five great provinces, 
and communicating with three provincial capitals and with de- 
partmental and district cities without number. 

In a geographical point of view, the exploration of the Yellow 
River is one of the most interesting problems of the age ; and 
in its political and commercial aspects it is one of the pressing 
questions of the hour. Natives and foreigners would both profit 
by the opening of the Ilwang-ho to steam-navigation. To the 
foreign merchant it would open a market not reached by any of 
the affluents of the Yang-tsze-kiang, while to the natives it would 
bring a termination of that terrible brigandage under which they 
have been suffering for so many years. Let us hope that our 
ministers will bear this in mind in the negotiations of 1868.* 

* My anticipations in regard to the navigation of the Yellow River are, I 
fear, not destined to be realized. The bar at the mouth forms so rapidly 
and shifts so capriciously that it is doubtful if a steam-dredge would prove 
of any permanent utility. Possibly the species of hydraulic engineering 
which Captain Eads has applied with so much success to the mouth of the 
Mississippi might prove equally effectual in the case of the Yellow River. 
As to the upper course of this famous stream, we now know that it is so 


Two questions require attention before we allow ourselves to 
dismiss the subject of the Hwang-ho the course pursued by its 
new channel, and the cause of that wonderful change which has 
thrown five hundred miles of sea-coast between its present and 
its former embouchure. 

According to the best information I \vas able to collect, the 
breach that opened the new channel occurred near E-fung-hien, 
thirty or forty miles to the east of ITai-fung-fu. From that 
point, washing the city of Kau-ching, it flows north, passing un- 
der the walls of Ts'au-chou-fu, as far as Fan-hien, where it spreads 
into a lagoon some thirty li, or ten miles, in width. I passed near 
this place, and should have crossed the river here but for the ice 
that had formed on the lagoon. Turning in an easterly direc- 
tion, it intersects the Grand Canal at Chang-ch'iu-chen, ij|| ^. 
It was at Li-liang-k'iau, a little beyond this place, that I crossed 
it it had there diverged from the canal to the distance of fif- 
teen li. A stone bridge that gave name to the locality, and 
which in former years sufficed to carry passengers over a small 
tributary of the Ta-ts'ing, was lying in ruins, the advent of the 
Hwang-ho having tossed it aside with little ceremony. From 
this point, it not only usurps the bed of the Ta-ts'ing, but oblit- 
erates its very name the natives everywhere speaking of that 
startling phenomenon, the " Coming of the Yellow "Waters." 

As to the cause of this phenomenon, we are left very much to 
conjecture. Superstition discovered a mysterious relation be- 
tween the outbreak of the Taiping Rebellion and the behavior 
of the unruly stream in refusing to pay tribute to the Eastern 
Ocean, bursting over all bounds, and pouring its waters into what 
the natives call the Northern Sea. They view it only in the light 
of a portent ; but the alleged relation is not to be set aside as 
altogether imaginary. Dr. D. J. Macgowan, who, in a communi- 

obstructed by rapids and cascades as not to be practicable for boats of any 
kind excepting from stage to stage. (Peking, December, 1879.) 


cation to the North China Herald, first drew public attention to 
this remarkable change in the Yellow River, quotes authority to 
show that "in the latter part of 1852 the people of Hwaingan 
found the river fordable, and in the spring of the ensuing year 
travellers crossed it dry-shod." Mr. Wade, in the Parliamentary 
Blue-book for 1859-60, cites a Chinese document to the effect 
that by an inundation in 1855 "the north bank of the river in 
Ilonan was carried away, and the river ceased to flow." Now, 
it was just between these dates that the rebel invasion of the 
Northern provinces took place ; and what more natural supposi- 
tion can we make than that the Ho-tuh, or superintendent of the 
river works, who has under hiui a force of sixty-four thousand 
men, on a quasi military footing, should have found other employ- 
ment for his " navvies " on the approach of the enemy, and neg- 
lected the river at a critical juncture ? He may even have em- 
ployed the impetuous stream as a means for checking their 
advance. A rumor became current at the time that many rebels 
had been drowned in consequence of the river breaking its 
banks. That this outbreak was the result of neglect occasioned 
by the rebel panic is highly probable ; but the military use of 
the river which I have just hinted at is not without a precedent. 
The Chinese are as well acquainted with this method of extin- 
guishing an enemy as were the heroes of the Dutch Republic. 
Not to speak of other instances, K'ai-fung-fa has in this way 
been subjected to at least three destructive inundations. Once 
by the forces of Ts'in, for the purpose of dislodging the Prince 
of Wei, who held his court in what was then Called Ta-liang; 
once by the Mongols in their conflict with the Sung dynasty ; 
and again by a general of the Mings, with a view to destroying 
a body of rebels who were laying siege to the city. The whole 
population of the city fell victims to the miserable stratagem, 
and Chinese historians charge the cruel act to the rebel Li-tse- 
ching; but we prefer the contemporary testimony of Jesuit 


It is not, perhaps, generally known that the Yellow River, in 
that immense departure from its late channel which excites the 
astonishment of the present age, is only returning to a long-for- 
saken pathway. The highlands of Shantung rise like an island 
from the level of the great plain ; and it appears from Chinese 
records that the restless river, in finding its way to the sea, has 
oscillated with something like periodic regularity from one side 
to the other of this promontory, and at two epochs flowed with 
a divided current converting it into an immense delta. These 
vagaries are minutely traced in the jfg T^ ^q, a hydrograph- 
ical work published under the patronage of K'ang-he. From 
this we learn the curious fact that the river divided its waters 
between the two principal channels, and insulated the highlands 
of Shantung for a period of one hundred and forty-six years ; and 
that it was not till the reign of the Mongols, about five hundred 
years ago, that it became settled in its southern bed. The writer 
concludes with the expression of an earnest desire that the troub- 
lesome stream may be induced to return to its northern course. 
After the lapse of two centuries, his wish is now gratified. 

IV. The canal where I crossed it, to the south of Tung-ch'ang- 
fu, was nearly dry, and I had not been able to learn whether it 
was in a working condition above Ts'ing-kiang-p'u. From Kiuhfu 
to this place it was accordingly my intention to proceed by land ; 
but my cart-driver, taking alarm at rumors of rebels, refused to 
advance, and I was compelled to seek for some other mode of 
prosecuting my journey. The canal was suggested, and I made 
my way in that direction slowly, painfully toiling on, now on 
foot, now on a wheelbarrow, anon mounted on one of the impe- 
rial post-horses, or seated in a mandarin carriage. At length, 
ascending a hill, I saw the AVeishan lake spreading its silvery 
expanse at my feet. Embosoming an archipelago of green 
islands, and stretching far away among the hills to my eye the 
scene was too pleasing to be real. I distrusted my senses, and 
thought it a mirage such as often before had cheated my hopes 


with the apparition of lake and stream; and when my guide 
assured me that it was no deceptive show, I gave way to trans- 
ports not unlike those in which the Greeks indulged, when, escap- 
ing from the heart of Persia, they caught a distant view of the 
waters of the Euxine. 

Taking passage at the foot of the lake, I glided gently down 
with the current, and reached Chin-kiang-fu, a distance of nine 
hundred li, in less than a week. 

Through this portion of its course the canal deserves the ap- 
pellation of "Grand." For the first half, extending to Ts'ing- 
kiang-p'u, it varies from eighty to two hundred feet in width. 
Seething and foaming as it rushes from the lake, and rolling on 
with a strong current through the whole of this distance, it has 
more the appearance of a natural river than of a canal. Near 
Ts'ing-kiang it parts with enough of its water to form a navi- 
gable stream, which enters the sea at Hai-chau. Beyond this 
point, where it intersects the old bed of the Yellow River, its 
waters are drawn off by innumerable sluices to irrigate the rice 
grounds, until it is reduced to about forty feet in breadth and 
four in depth. Recruited, however, by a timely supply from the 
Kau-yu lake, it recovers much of its former strength, and flows 
on to the Yang-tsze-kiang with a velocity that makes toilsome 
work for the trackers. 

To what extent the canal may be practicable for steam-navi- 
gation is a question not without interest; and my mind had 
been occupied with it for some days, when I happily had the 
opportunity of seeing it subjected to the test of experiment. 
Just off the city of Kau-yu, where the canal reaches its minimum 
depth, I met the Hyson, a well-known tug-boat from Shanghai, 
towing a flotilla of war-junks. She would be able to reach the 
city of Ts'ing-kiang-p'u, but not to go beyond, on account of the 
locks or water-gates, some of which are only twelve feet in 

As the canal now is, propellers of three feet draught and ten 


feet beam, making up in length what they lack in other dimen- 
sions, might drive a profitable trade between Chin-kiang and Tsi- 
ning-chau, a distance of twelve hundred li; but the utility of the 
canal would be greatly enhanced by adding a lock or two in the 
shallower portions, and increasing the breadth of those that now 
exist, so as to admit the passage of larger vessels. A little en- 
gineering at its point of intersection with the new course of the 
Yellow River would supply an abundance of water to a portion 
that is dry, making its facilities for junk-navigation equal to 
those of its best days ; and it would then be possible for steam- 
ers of the class that were lately employed in penetrating to the 
silk districts of the interior to make inland voyages from Shang- 
hai nearly to the gates of Peking.* 

* To Tungchow, twelve miles distant 



THE Peking Gazette contains the following obituary announce- 
ment, in the usual form of an Imperial decree: "The Duke 
K'ung Siang-k'o, lineal successor of the Holy Sage, has departed 
this life. Let the proper Board report as to the marks of Im- 
perial favor to be accorded in connection with the funeral 
rites." * 

The Duke was about twenty-six years of age, and a descend- 
ant of Confucius at a remove of more than seventyf generations. 
Of his personal character we know nothing, save that he once 
admitted a company of foreigners, the Rev. Dr. Williamson and 
others, into his presence, and treated them with great urbanity. 
AVhat interests us more, and furnishes the sole reason for chron- 
icling his death, whether in these lines or in the still briefer no- 
tice in the Peking Gazette, is his representative character. K'ung 
Siang-k'o was head of the Confucian clan, and as such he en- 
joyed the dignities and emoluments of a noble of the first class. 

Hereditary rank makes so small a figure in the administration 
of the Chinese government that we sometimes hear it asserted 
that there is no such thing in China. Now, those who hazard 
this assertion, not only leave out of view the feudal organization 

* This paper was written in 18*76 for the Celestial Empire by request of 
the editor. The designation " Successor of Confucius " may not be thought 
well chosen; but were not the caliphs styled successors of the Prophet? 
And are not ecclesiastical dignitaries called successors of the apostles ? 

\ The last on the family record, published in the last century, was the 


of the Manchu and Mongol races, but forget the sonorous titles 
prefixed to the names of some of the leading Chinese statesmen 
of the present day. We can scarcely take up a number of the 
Peking Gazette without being reminded that Li Hung-chang or 
Tso Tsung-t'ang is an earl or {fa,peh, of the first grade; and a 
few years ago the title of marquis, $, hou, was made equally 
prominent in connection with the name of the late eminent 
Tseng Kuo-fan. On the decease of the great general, the title 
descended in due course to his son Tseng Ki-tsoh,* who writes 
and signs it in good English in correspondence with his foreign 
friends. In a word, all the five degrees of hereditary nobility 
which were in use three thousand years ago are to be found (by 
searching) among the Chinese of to-day ; but with this impor- 
tant difference, that they no longer imply the possession of land- 
ed estates or territorial jurisdiction. Leaving the secular peer- 
age of China proper, as well as that of the dominant race, to be 
treated by some one who has leisure and inclination for the sub- 
ject, we propose to devote a few paragraphs to what we venture 
to denominate the sacred heraldry of the Empire. 

Ten years ago, in the course of an overland journey from Pe- 
king to Shanghai, the writer turned aside to visit the tomb of 
Confucius. Near the tumulus, his eye was attracted by an in- 
scription informing him that a tree of which the decaying stump 
was all that remained was planted by the hand of Tsze-K'ung; 
and another pointed out the place where that devoted disciple 
had passed six years of his life in a solitary hermitage, near the 
ashes of his master. The hut which he occupied has long since 
crumbled to dust, and the sap has ceased to flow through the 
trunk of that venerable tree ; but the family of the Sage still con- 
tinues to surround the sacred spot, the associations of which are 
more unfading than the evergreens by which the place is over- 
shadowed. It was an impressive spectacle to see the heads of 

* Minister to England, 1880. 


the various brandies into which the clan is divided performing 
their semi-monthly devotions before the tablet of their illustri- 
ous ancestor. Many of these discharge official duties, and con- 
stitute a kind of priesthood in the temple of the Sage ; their ap- 
pointments, whether hereditary or otherwise, being duly record- 
ed in the Red Book, or official register. -The chief of the tribe 

' O 

is known as Yen Sheng K'ung, the Duke of the Holy Succes- 
sion a succession which is older in generations than most aged 
men are in the reckoning of years. There are Jewish families 
who can boast a longer pedigree running back, perhaps, to the 
return from captivity, B.C. 536 ; but where, out of China, shall 
we look for a family whose nobility has a history of twenty cen- 
turies ? 

The first hereditary distinction was conferred on the senior 
member of the house of K'ung by the founder of the Han dy- 
nasty, B.C. 202. The title was at first the vague designation of 
keun, prince, and coupled with the charge of the ancestral tem- 
ple. This was exchanged for the more distinguishing title of 
hou, marquis, by order of Wu-ti, of the same dynasty. The 
later Chow, A.D. 550, substituted the title of k'ung, duke ; but 
in the next dynasty, that of Suy, it reverted to marquis, and so 
continued through the three centuries of the Tangs. At the ac- 
cession of the Sung, the heir of Confucius was again raised to 
the dignity of duke a rank which he has retained without ma- 
terial variation for more than eight centuries. 

In the topographical and genealogical histories we are favored 
with biographical sketches of the individual links in this long 
chain ; but through them all there runs a thread of dreary mo- 
notony. In earlier ages, the house of K'ung did indeed pro- 
duce a few men of exceptional eminence in letters and in poli- 
tics. They are not, however, always found in the line of primo- 
geniture, and in the rare instances in which titled heads have 
distinguished themselves we have to recognize the stimulating 
.influence of court life, from which they were not yet excluded. 


Under the existing regime, the succession presents us no name 
of note ; a result more due to want of opportunity than to any 
deterioration of race, for, according to some observers, the blood 
of Confucius continues to assert itself in the superior develop- 
ment of his posterity. But what are we to expect when a fam- 
ily is rooted to the soil of a cemetery but that it should become 
as barren as the cypress that overhangs it? 

The Dukes of ITung are strictly relegated to the vicinity of 
their sacerdotal charge, and are not at liberty to visit the capital 
without express permission from the throne. 

We recall the late Duke's application for leave to prostrate 
himself before the sarcophagus of the Emperor Tung-chih, cer- 
tainly the last and probably the only occasion on which he ever 
entered the walls of Peking. 

The family estate, it must be confessed, is large enough to 
gratify the ambition and employ the energies of an ordinary 
mortal, amounting (for it is not all in one place) to an area of 
not less than 165,000 acres. 

And as for honors, the country nobleman has much to con- 
sole him for the privations of provincial life ; the Governor of 
the province, it is said, being required to approach him with the 
same forms of homage which he renders to the Son of Heaven. 
Numerous offices of inferior dignity are conferred on other mem- 
bers of the clan, constituting it a kind of Levitical order ; but it 
is pleasing to remark that these tokens of a nation's undying 
gratitude are not limited to the lineage of Confucius. Around 
the grand luminary there moved a cluster of satellites, which 
drank in his beams and propagated his light. 

The chief of these Yien, Tseng, Sze, Heng, as the Chinese 
concisely call them, and a few others, continued to be hon- 
ored in the same way, though not to the same degree, as the 
Sage himself. Inseparable attendants of the Sage, in all his 
temples, at least one of which exists in every district of the Em- 
pire, each of them enjoys the honor of a separate shrine, and 


some of his posterity derive their subsistence from the charge 
of it. In the city of Chii-fu, a conspicuous inscription points 
out the spot where Yien-hwei, in the midst of poverty, presented 
a face evejr radiant with joy, because his soul was filled with di- 
vine philosophy. Hard by stands a magnificent mausoleum to 
the man who never wrote a book and never performed any great 
exploit ; but who embodied in his own practice more perfectly 
than any other the precepts of his Master. In the adjoining 
district of Tseo-hicn stands a temple to Mencius, the St. Paul of 
Confucianism, who, though he entered the world too late to en- 
joy the personal teachings of the Great Sage, did more than any 
other to give them shape and currency. Not far away, in the 
same city, stands a somewhat dilapidated temple of Tsze-sze, the 
master of Mencius, and the grandson of Confucius. Though in 
the direct line, the Chinese have not been willing to merge his 
name and fame in those of his ancestor ; but have taken effectual 
measures for testifying to all generations their reverence for the 
author of the Chung-yung, or " Golden Mean." 

The whole region surrounding the temple of Confucius is dot- 
ted over by the tombs of ancient worthies ; and it is touching 
to see with what sacred care their descendants cherish the fire 
on their altars. Under various designations they have dis- 
charged these offices for more than threescore, and in one in- 
stance for nearly a hundred, generations ; but their present titles 
date from the Ming dynasty. The founder of the Mings, an un- 
lettered warrior, who never read the Four Books until he was 
seated on the throne and had Liu-ki for a teacher, conferred 
certain honors on the descendants of Yien-hwei and Mencius. 
His successors ordered that representatives of fifteen of the dis- 
ciples of Confucius should be enrolled in the llanlin College, 
and invested with the office of professors and curators of the 
Five Classics. 

Nor is it only the Great Sage and his disciples who enjoy the 
distinction of a memorial temple, a State ritual, and an hereditary 


priesthood ; all these are accorded to the Duke of Chow, whom 
Confucius revered as a master and imitated as a model. Chow- 
kung died more than five hundred years before the birth of Con- 
fucius; but the later Sage not only professed to have caught 
his inspiration from the earlier, but in one of his most touching 
speeches he gave it as a mark of decaying nature that he had 
" ceased to dream of Chow-kung." 

It is not surprising, therefore, that the family of the virtuous 
Regent of China's typical dynasty should have some small part 
in the cloud of incense which China offers to the pioneers of her 
civilization. Their claim to it was eloquently advocated by one 
of his descendants when the Emperor Kang-hi visited the " sa- 
cred soil of Lu," and promptly recognized by that enlightened 
monarch. None of these venerated shades is regarded as exer- 
cising a tutelar guardianship over the Empire, or over any part 
of it. Their temples, though vulgar superstitions have gathered 
round them, are essentially memorial, and the worship wholly 
commemorative. It is thus that China has sought to mould her 
children into one family and to secure the stability of society by 
binding it to the traditions of the past. 

The representatives of these families, as we have said, arc a 
priesthood rather than a nobility ; but so closely are the two 
ideas associated in the Chinese mind that a writer of these fam- 
ily histories finds in ancestral worship the origin of feudal dig- 
nities. His philosophy is at fault; but it is gratifying to ob- 
serve that, while the feudal lords of China have gone under in 
the struggle for existence, the only vestiges of the ancient nobil- 
ity (the secular are all new) are those which cluster round the 
memories of the wise and good. 



NOTE. As the foregoing pages contain an essay on the prose 
composition of the Chinese, these verses are added as a specimen 
of their poetry. Their educated men, as I have elsewhere said, 
are all poets ; and various collections of verses by female writers 
show that they have their Sapphos and Corinnas. They may 
also claim to have their Jeanne d'Arcs. 

The ballad which celebrates one of their heroines is somewhat 
abridged by the omission of incidents, some of which are the 
opposite of poetical. 

The tendency of the Chinese to express themselves in verse 
is exhibited in the occasional issue of official proclamations in 
rhyme. The latest illustration of this national taste is a couplet 
which the Marquis of Tseng sent to Peking by telegraph, ac- 
knowledging the Imperial mandate requiring him to proceed to 
Russia : 

fit a t 
a n 

These lines, as concise as the responses of the Delphic oracle, 
may be thus rendered : 

" My knowledge is scant and my powers are frail, 
At the voice of the thunder I tremble and quail. 

11 PUKING, April 15, 1880." 




Written "by Pan Tsieh Yu, a Lady of the Court, and Presented to the 
Emperor Cheng-ti, of the Han Dynasty, B. C. 18. 

Of fresh new silk, all snowy-white, 

And round as harvest moon, 
A pledge of purity and love, 

A small but welcome boon. 

While summer lasts, borne in the hand, 

Or folded on the breast, 
'Twill gently soothe thy burning brow, 

And charm thee to thy rest. 

But ah ! when autumn frosts descend, 

And autumn winds blow cold, 
No longer sought, no longer loved, 

'Twill lie in dust and mould. 

This silken fan, then, deign accept, 

Sad emblem of my lot, 
Caressed and cherished for an hour, 

Then speedily forgot. 




A & 





An officer being disabled, his daughter puts on his armor, and so dis- 
guised leads his troops to the conflict. The original is anonymous 
and of uncertain date. 

" Say, maiden at your spinning-wheel, 
Why heave that deep-drawn sigh ! 

Is 't fear, perchance, or love you feel ? 
Pray tell oh, tell me why !" 

" Nor fear nor love has moved my soul 

Away such idle thought ! 
A warrior's glory is the goal 

By my ambition sought. 

" My Father's cherished life to save, 

My country to redeem, 
The dangers of the field I'll brave : 

I am not what I seem. 

" No son has he his troop to lead, 

No brother dear have I ; 
So I must mount my father's steed, 

And to the battle hie." 

At dawn of day she quits her door, 

At evening rests her head 
Where loud the mountain torrents roar 

And mail-clad soldiers tread. 




a * 

R tf : U 

*K -S HI J9f 




SB 3 tl 


The northern plains are gained at last, 
The mountains sink from view; 

The sun shines cold, and the wintry blast 
It pierces through and through. 

A thousand foes around her fall, 
And red blood stains the ground, 

But Mulan, who survives it all, 
Returns with glory crowned. 

Before the throne they bend the knee 

In the palace of Changan, 
Full many a knight of high degree, 

But the bravest is Mulan. 

" Nay, Prince," she cries, " my duty 's done, 

No guerdon I desire ; 
But let me to my home begone, 

To cheer my aged sire." 

She nears the door of her father's home, 
A chief with trumpet's blare ; 

But when she doffs her waving plume, 
She stands a maiden fair. 



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University of California 

from which it was borrowed 

A 000 056 334 6